When Senates Said No

Speaking of Akhil Reed Amar, he’s got an op-ed in the Washington Post today about confirming judicial nominees that’s got this little bit:

In the give and take between the president and the Senate, the executive has the upper hand. Though the document speaks of senatorial “advice,” only the president makes actual nominations, and once this happens, it is hard for the Senate to say no.

Well, that’s more true than not in the aggregate—although throughout history, about 20 percent of all presidential picks for the Supreme Court have not been confirmed—but it brings to mind the mother of all Senatorial denials. In 1866 when Justice John Catron retired, and then the next year when Justice James Moore Wayne retired, the Radical Republicans in the Senate simply abolished those seats rather than let Andrew Johnson nominate anyone else. Fun times. It’s also a healthy reminder that no matter how vicious the battle over Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement may get, there’s been far, far worse in the past.


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