Strengthening Checks and Balances

How Do We End the Cycle of Confirmation Wars?

This piece originally appeared on The Hill.

With the courts, perception is just as important as reality. The judiciary relies on the public’s faith in its role as a fair arbiter of disputes — without that legitimacy, why would citizens or officials feel obliged to follow court orders?

If one is concerned about the Supreme Court as an institution that can safeguard against constitutional overreach by the other two branches, the bare-knuckles politicking over recent Supreme Court nominees is incredibly shortsighted.

As this most recent (and awful) confirmation saga finally comes to its end, one unsettling consequence surfaces: The legitimacy of the Supreme Court is undermined by the U.S. Senate and its current confirmation process.

Before we try to claw our way out, let’s take a moment to see how we got here. Spoiler alert: No one has clean hands.

For most of the 20th century, presidents and the Senate undertook their respective roles to nominate and give “advice and consent” without much fanfare. The last nominee confirmed on a voice vote was Abe Fortas in 1965 Since then, there have been 22 votes on nominees for the high court. Fourteen were confirmed by sizeable majorities of near or over two-thirds of senators, and five were confirmed unanimously. 

But when a nomination could upend the ideological balance on the court, confirmation fights become wars. 

Keep reading on The Hill.