Judicial Confirmations Update: Political Science Weighs In!

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


In my previous post, I wrote that Republicans are now blocking not just judicial nominees who are relatively extreme, but anyone who’s ever written something that a conservative interest group objects to. Matt Corley tweets that this reminds him of a paper written a few years ago on exactly this subject.

Nancy Scherer, Brandon Bartels, and Amy Steigerwalt took a look at what factors were most likely to hold up a judicial nominee in the Senate. Their data spans the years from 1985 to 2004 and their conclusion is pretty simple: it’s interest groups uber alles. Take a look at the chart above. On the left, you see what happens to judicial nominees when they’re ideologically in sync with the Senate. If interest groups don’t weigh in (black bar), they get approved in an average of 44 days. When conservative interest groups are opposed, this skyrockets to 156 days. When liberal interest groups are opposed, it takes 83 days.

What’s interesting is that this doesn’t change much when the nominee is ideologically distant from the Senate. When interest groups don’t raise alarms, nominees take only slightly longer to get confirmed: 58 days instead of 44. It’s interest group opposition that sends this through the roof. Senators don’t really care that much how extreme a candidate is. They only care if their own interest groups sound the alarm.

What seems to be happening now is that interest groups always sound an alarm and this is slowing judicial confirmations to a standstill across the board. Interest groups—especially conservative ones—rule us all.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate