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Supreme Court Vacancies in Presidential Election Years

  • There’s no reason the Senate can’t confirm a new justice by Election Day.
  • Even in the modern era, when the confirmation process has gotten much longer, there still have been three justices who were thoroughly vetted and confirmed in a reasonable time period.
    • In 1975, Justice Stevens was confirmed in just 16 days after his nomination.
    • In 1981, Justice O’Connor was confirmed in just 33 days after her nomination.
    • In 1993, Justice Ginsburg was confirmed in just 42 days after her nomination.
  • The Republican position on filling vacancies arising during a presidential election year has been consistent and follows historical norms.[1]
    • When the same party controls the White House and the Senate (e.g., now), the confirmation process proceeds as usual and the nominee is almost always confirmed. A new justice has been confirmed 8 out of 10 times this has happened.
    • When different parties control the White House and the Senate (e.g., in 2016) the confirmation process either does not proceed, or proceeds and the nomination usually fails. In the handful of instances when such nominations proceeded (excluding one case in which there was a recess appointment), they failed 4 out of 6 times.
  • The American people have made clear their preference for appointing constitutionalist judges.
    • In 2016, President Trump was elected because of his transparency and commitment to putting constitutionalists on the Supreme Court.
    • 1 out of 5 voters said it was the most important issue for them in the election, and those voters overwhelmingly chose President Trump.
    • In 2018, the American people had a choice and they chose to expand Republican control of the Senate because they agreed with the judges being confirmed.


[1] Historical references draw from data in table 1 of the Congressional Research Service report entitled Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2017 (RL33225), and tables of justices who served from 1789 to the present on the Supreme Court website and the Senate website.

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