The judicial confirmation process — at least at the Supreme Court level — is broken. When the Senate refused to confirm Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, it was the first time since 1987 that the Senate had rebuffed a high court nominee on partisan grounds. Yet almost all Supreme Court vacancies over that time period emerged when the same party controlled both the White House and the Senate. Before Garland, the last time the Senate considered a cross-party Supreme Court nominee was in 1991, when Clarence Thomas was narrowly confirmed to the court, and partisan lines subsequently hardened. Eleven of 57 Democratic senators voted to confirm Thomas. In contrast, only three Democrats in the Senate voted to confirm President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, in early 2017. And only one, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted to confirm Trump’s 2018 nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
October marked the first anniversary of the Kavanaugh confirmation, which like Thomas’s will be remembered principally for disputed allegations of past sexual misconduct by the nominee. Two new books released by the conservative publishing house Regnery chronicle the contentious Kavanaugh confirmation battle: “Search and Destroy: Inside the Campaign Against Brett Kavanaugh” by Ryan Lovelace and “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court” by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino.
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