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What Consultation Looks Like

In light of the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, there has been a lot of talk about “consultation.” Unfortunately, President Bush thus far has shown little willingness to seek bipartisan consulation on his nominees. Instead, he has “closely consulted with right-wing groups” and let other senators “not hear of prospective nominees until they learned of them through media reports.” And even Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was left to admit “that genuine consultation did not take place with respect to the first round of Bush nominees.”

But the nomination and confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice does not have to be a knock down-drag out fight. Here are two recent examples — that it would do Bush well to heed — of just how effective consultation can be when a President is nominating a justice to the Supreme Court:

Ruth Bader GinsburgNominated: June 14th, 1993Confirmed: August 3rd, 1993Consultation: Yes

Minority Reaction:

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I think it’s an excellent choice,’ said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. ‘She’s going to make a very excellent justice.’ Hatch, who said he was consulted frequently by the White House as Clinton zeroed in on a nominee, promised cooperation and said the committee would ‘certainly try to get her confirmed before the first Monday in October, when the court convenes. [AP, 6/14/93]

Confirmation Vote: 96–3Stephen BreyerNominated: 5/14/94Confirmed: 8/2/94Consultation: Yes

Minority Reaction:

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, launched debate today with a ringing endorsement of Breyer ‘This is an honest man,’ said Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. ‘He’s a man of immense qualificationst…I will support him with everything I have.’ Hatch urged his colleagues to confirm the nominee and praised President Clinton for being ‘especially considerate of this particular responsibility of the president’ in choosing well-qualified nominees for the court. [AP, 6/29/94]

Confirmation Vote: 87–9 (Unanimously nominated by Senate Judiciary Committee)