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The changing dynamics of Senate voting on Supreme Court nominees

Epstein, Lee, Lindstadt, Rene, Segal, Jeffrey A. and Westerland, Chad 2006. The changing dynamics of Senate voting on Supreme Court nominees. The Journal of Politics 68 (2) , pp. 296-307. 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2006.00407.x

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A near-universal consensus exists that the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987 triggered a new regime in the Senate's voting over presidential nominees—a regime that deemphasizes ethics, competence, and integrity and stresses instead politics, philosophy, and ideology. Nonetheless, this conventional wisdom remains largely untested. In this paper we explore the extent to which the Bork nomination has affected the decisions of U.S. senators. To do so, we modernize, update, and backdate the standard account of confirmation politics offered by Cameron, Cover, and Segal (1990) to cover all candidates for the Supreme Court from Hugo L. Black in 1937 through John G. Roberts, Jr. in 2005. Our results confirm conventional wisdom about the Bork nomination but with two notable caveats. First, while the importance of ideology has reached new heights, the Senate's emphasis on this factor had its genesis some three decades earlier, in the 1950s. Second, while ideology is of paramount concern to senators, a candidate's professional merit also remains a significant determinant of success in the Senate.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Subjects: J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
Publisher: Southern Political Science Association
ISSN: 0022-3816
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 March 2017
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2020 01:43

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