Because when Republicans were in the minority, they bottled up virtually all of Obama’s judicial appointments, to the point that it was causing a severe shortage in some federal jurisdictions. Once the rule requiring a supermajority was lifted, Obama’s appointments started to fill the ranks of federal judges. In the end, he was able to fill about as many seats with the new rules as Bush had been able to fill under the old rules, with a Democratic majority in the Senate.
why are most, if not all, confirmations seemingly based on the idea that once a candidate is nominated, the default outcome is that they will be confirmed
What you’re suggesting — a supermajority requirement, with judges assumed to be unsuitable until proven otherwise, would result in very few confirmations, and would create a crisis in the judiciary.
The fact is, the Republican attack on the independent judiciary has brought us to a point where we need to confirm judges by simple majorities. When and if Republicans give up their hyperpartisan attack on the independence of the judicial branch, we can start talking about returning to a process that requires a supermajority.
As for the actual nominations, I think it’s reasonable to assume that someone who has served as a federal or state judge can be evaluated on the basis of their judicial records. Other nominees should face tougher scrutiny.
What I think needs to change is the perception that the process has to be “fair” to the nominees. It doesn’t. There are plenty of qualifies judges who would serve well on the circuit courts or on the Supreme Court. Virtually everyone who is nominated is already a powerful judge, and will remain so if their nomination is withdrawn. It makes no sense to bend over backward to be “fair” to these individuals while putting the pubic interest at risk.
What this means is that nominees like Kavanaugh or Thomas should be withdrawn, and alternative partisan hacks appointed in their place. We would have judges who haven’t been credibly accused of harassment and sex crimes, Republicans would have their partisan hacks on the Supreme Court, and Kavanaugh and Thomas would continue to be wealthy and powerful judges. Everybody wins.
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