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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The talking point from Republicans is that President Obama should not nominate a new Supreme Court justice because it is a presidential election year.

During the most recent Republican presidential debate, Senators Marco Rubio (FL, R) and Ted Cruz (TX, R) repeated the line that the last time a Supreme Court justice was confirmed during a presidential election year was in 1932.

That is not true.

To find the proof, you have to look at the current court itself.

In June 1987, Justice Lewis Powell retired from the court. The president nominated Robert Bork to replace him but was rejected by the senate, which was controlled by the opposing party, 58-42 in October.

A new justice was appointed in November 1987. His hearing went smother than Bork’s, the confirmation vote was 97-0, and he was added to court on 11 February 1988. All of these events took place within one year of a presidential election and the president, who was term limited, saw his party retain the White House for another four years.

The justice was Anthony Kennedy who is still on the court.

The president was Ronald Reagan, a Republican.

The opposing party held the Senate and it was the Democrats who joined with their Republican colleagues to add Kennedy to the court.

Funny that it is Senator Mitch McConnell (KY, R), the Majority Leader, saying that any Obama nomination is dead on arrival when he voted to confirm Kennedy to the court in 1988.

Senator Chuck Grassley (IA, R) was once part of the group saying that the nomination should not get a hearing. He has since walked back those statements. Probably because he realized that 1) his senate seat is up this election cycle; 2) like McConnell, he also voted to confirm Kennedy; and 3) maybe he saw these lines from his God: Ronald Reagan.

Now I am no fan of Reagan. I think that Republicans worship him a TAD too much while purposefully overlooking his flaws as well as many of his positions that would likely cost him his party’s nomination if he were to run in today’s Republican Party. However, I give credit when it is appropriately due. Reagan was correct in this aspect about leaving court seats vacant.

There were two instances where Reagan asked the senate to vote on Kennedy’s confirmation.

In remarks one day before the start of his final term – that would have been on 19 January 1988 – Reagan said this:

“In the year ahead, we're not going to be on the defensive, shoring up problems and answering our critics. We are moving forward, and I have no doubt that when we look back 1988 will be a year of great accomplishment toward our goals. This is the year when Judge Anthony Kennedy will be confirmed and the Supreme Court will again be brought up to full strength. The Federal judiciary is too important to be made a political football. I would hope, and the American people should expect, not only for Judge Kennedy's confirmation but for the Senate to get to work and act on 27 other judicial nominations that have been left in limbo for quite awhile now.”

In his final State of the Union, Reagan used the opportunity to ask the senate to confirm Kennedy.

Kennedy was not the first Supreme Court justice confirmed to the court within one year to an election.

Since 1900 these justices were added to the court within one year prior to a presidential election: John Paul Stevens, William Rehnquist, the previously mentioned Powell, Frank Murphy, Benjamin Cardozo, John Clarke, Louis Brandeis, and Mahlon Pitney.

Lyndon Johnson nominated two justices in 1968 – Homer Thornberry and Abe Fortas – but both withdrew their nomination about a month prior to the election.

If you limit the definition to just the presidential year and the entire history of the United States, that number goes to 17 as documented by Judd Legum at Think Progress.

In summation:

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