The vote of 50-to-48 by the U.S. Senate Saturday afternoon to confirm Brett Kavanaugh is the closest vote for confirmation of a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 88 years.
The difference between the vote on Kavanaugh Saturday and that on May 6, 1930 was by a vote of 41-to-39, the Senate rejected the nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals Judge John J. Parker to the high court.
During that vote, sixteen senators were absent or didn’t vote, but they “paired”—expressed how they would have voted—and their “pairing” split evenly with eight “ayes” and eight “nays".
Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Edward T. Sanford in March of 1930, Republican President Herbert Hoover named as Sanford’s successor South Carolina’s Parker, then age 44 and a judge of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals since 1925.
Much like Kavanaugh in 2018, the nominee was initially praised for his intellect and credentials. Supporters noted Parker had been confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals only five years before.
But within a matter of days, opposition from liberal groups began to emerge. American Federation of Labor President William Green testified against Parker before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, focusing his fire on a ruling by the nominee in the controversial “International Organization of United Mine Workers of America vs. Red Jacket Consolidated Coal” case.
The unanimous ruling — in which two other judges joined with Parker — upheld an injunction against the mineworkers who were marching in West Virginia to protest their treatment from mine owners.
Walter White, head of the NAACP, had collected remarks from Parker’s bids for Congress and governor in South Carolina in which he supported the poll tax and literacy tests that were barriers to blacks casting votes. Such positions, White charged, constituted “a grave threat to the Negro.” (White sent a telegram to Parker asking if he still held those views, but the judge did not reply; the judge had indeed shifted his views from his campaign days but did not believe nominees to the high court should be questioned on specific issues that may come before them).
On May 6, following days of rancorous debate, progressive Republicans such as Sens. George Norris, R-Neb., and Hiram Johnson, R-Calif., joined with Democrats to defeat the nominee 41-to-39. Had only one senator switched sides, Parker would have been confirmed with Vice President Charles Curtis casting the tie-breaking vote.
In later years, as Parker’s actual positions on civil rights issues were clarified, he was mentioned for just about every vacancy under presidents of both parties. In 1953, it was widely felt that the only reason President Eisenhower did not name fellow Republican Parker to the Supreme Court was his age (68).
When Parker died in 1958, he was the senior judge of the Courts of Appeals nationwide. But he was and is best remembered as the nominee who just missed the Supreme Court.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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