Since Friday, when Senate Republicans agreed to delay a vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, there has been considerable criticism from conservatives nationwide.
Nearly three months after Kavanaugh was named to succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, they argue, there was no need to postpone a vote by the full Senate for another week in order to have an additional FBI probe on charges against the nominee by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Whether there is good reason for this delay or not, the fact is that there is nothing new about delays in votes on the confirmations of nominees to the nation’s highest court.
The 1991 confirmation of Clarence Thomas, to which the Kavanaugh controversy is frequently likened, was suddenly slowed on Sept. 23 when the White House ordered a fresh FBI investigation into Dr. Anita Hill’s charges of sexual harassment against the nominee.
Three days later, the FBI report was submitted to the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee and, according to a White House spokesman, “The White House reviewed the report and determined that the allegation was unfounded."
A vote by the full Senate was scheduled for Oct. 8, 1991, but Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, realizing Thomas did not have the votes needed for confirmation in the Democratic-controlled Senate, agreed to a delay. The nomination was sent back to the Judiciary Committee and, for three days, Hill laid out her charges against Thomas and witnesses on his behalf were called to answer her.
On Oct. 15, the Senate confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52-to-48 — three months and two weeks after he was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.
Long before Thomas, however, there were “bumps” in the road for confirmation and delays caused by new circumstances.
On Jan. 28, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson’s nomination to the Supreme Court of civil liberties and labor lawyer Louis Brandeis created a firestorm. Former President William Howard Taft, along with six former presidents of the American Bar Association, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times all weighed in against the inarguably liberal Brandeis.
“[T]o supplant conservatism by radicalism, would be to undo the work of John Marshall and strip the Constitution of its defenses,” editorialized the Times, urging the Senate to reject Brandeis.
So intense was the opposition to Brandeis that the Senate took the unprecedented step of referring his nomination to the Judiciary Committee. For the first time, the committee held public hearings on a nomination to the high court — although Brandeis himself was not required to testify.
On June 1, 1916, after four months of committee hearings and debate on the Senate floor, the Senate approved the nomination by a vote of 47-to-22.
On Jan. 12, 1939, the process of confirming a nominee to the Supreme Court was extended by an additional chore; the testimony of the nominee himself before a Senate panel. Harvard Law Professor Felix Frankfurter drew an overflow crowd to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee dealing with his nomination to the Supreme Court.
Frankfurter had been under fire for his association with liberal causes, from membership in the American Civil Liberties Union to his defense of aliens accused of sedition to his chairing a committee claiming injustice in the trial of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti.
Sen. Pat McCarran, D.-NV, hit the nominee hard on his foreign birth (Austria) and whether he had read and agreed with the book Communism by Frankfurter’s friend Harold Laski.
“Have you read the book?” shot back Frankfurter, almost a forerunner of Kavanaugh firing back questions to senators last week. When McCarran said he had not read it, Frankfurter said since “you have never read it….we could debate all day on whether [the advocacy of communism] is the doctrine of that book.”
When Frankfurter’s testimony was complete, the nominee drew prolonged cheers from the audience in the committee room. Later that day, he was approved unanimously.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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