NPR's Talk of the Nation

Post-Election Wrap-Up

Lynn Neary: Give us a sense of what these results will mean for the judicial appointments process.

Prof. Binder: Well, the Republicans taking control of the Senate is going to have a big impact on Bush's ability to put his federal nominees onto the bench in a quick manner. We've seen in the last Congress that's just finishing up only roughly 50, 60 percent of Bush's nominees were actually confirmed by the Democratic Senate. Those numbers are pretty much on par with what we've seen in recent years, unless to reach back to the last unified control, where Clinton was facing a Democratic Congress and there he had upwards of 90 percent of his nominees put on the bench. So party control of the Senate for the president is going to make a very big difference for putting his nominees onto the bench.

Neary: And maybe you can explain to people how the process works, how the process comes before the Judiciary Committee, and why an election like this makes such a difference on that process.

Prof. Binder: Well, the Constitution, of course, empowers the president to nominate judges. Once those nominees are forwarded to the Senate, they're traditionally referred to the Judiciary Committee. Now party control of the Senate by the Republicans means that they organize the committees. They select the committee chair and it is stacked to the advantage of the Republicans. So when the committee votes on sending a nominee to the floor, Republicans can count only on Republicans, if need be, to put these nominees to the floor. Once they're on the floor, they need essentially unanimous consent. The Democrats have to consent to put them on the floor. If they don't want to consent then Republicans really need 60 votes if anyone's going to push it to a filibuster...

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