Snubbing the Supremes NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin looks at who voted against the current justices on the Supreme Court.
NPR logo Snubbing the Supremes

Snubbing the Supremes

Conservatives, clearly outmaneuvered during the 1987 Bork hearings, are aggressively pushing the Roberts nomination this time. hide caption

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Her vote for the 1993 Clinton budget led to a "Goodbye, Marjorie" chant by House Republicans. hide caption

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Sixteen years ago today, Rep. Tommy Robinson (D-AR) switches to the GOP. hide caption

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Q: Shortly after John Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) made a point of saying he voted against Roberts two years ago, when Bush picked him for the court of appeals. But my understanding is that the Senate approved Roberts' nomination unanimously. Why would Schumer say that? -- Al Rosenberg, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Schumer was one of three Democrats who voted against Roberts in the Judiciary Committee (the others: Edward Kennedy and Richard Durbin). But when the Roberts nomination went to the full Senate, he was confirmed by a voice vote; that is, approval without a recorded vote.

Your question got me thinking about the current members of the Supreme Court and what their final confirmation votes were. And so, even though you didn't ask, here are the confirmation votes for the current justices and the senators who voted against them:

William Rehnquist (nominated by Nixon; confirmed by Senate 68-26 on 12/10/71):

Democrats voting against: Bayh (IN), Church (ID), Cranston (CA), Fulbright (AR), Gravel (AK), Harris (OK), Hart (MI), Hartke (IN), Hughes (IA), Humphrey (MN), Inouye (HI), Jackson (WA), Kennedy (MA), Magnuson (WA), McGovern (SD), Metcalf (MT), Mondale (MN), Moss (UT), Muskie (ME), Nelson (WI), Ribicoff (CT), Tunney (CA), Williams (NJ)

Republicans voting against: Brooke (MA), Case (NJ), Javits (NY)

John Paul Stevens (nominated by Ford; confirmed by Senate 98-0 on 12/17/75)

Sandra Day O'Connor (nominated by Reagan; confirmed by Senate 99-0 on 9/21/81)

Rehnquist (nominated by Reagan to be chief justice; confirmed by Senate 65-33 on 9/17/86):

Democrats voting against: Baucus (MT), Biden (DE), Bingaman (NM), Bradley (NJ), Burdick (ND), Byrd (WV), Cranston (CA), Dodd (CT), Eagleton (MO), Exon (NE), Glenn (OH), Gore (TN), Harkin (IA), Hart (CO), Inouye (HI), Kennedy (MA), Kerry (MA), Lautenberg (NJ), Leahy (VT), Levin (MI), Matsunaga (HI), Melcher (MT), Metzenbaum (OH), Mitchell (ME), Moynihan (NY), Pell (RI), Riegle (MI), Rockefeller (WV), Sarbanes (MD), Sasser (TN), Simon (IL)

Republicans voting against: Mathias (MD), Weicker (CT)

Antonin Scalia (nominated by Reagan; confirmed by Senate 98-0 on 9/17/86)

Anthony Kennedy (nominated by Reagan; confirmed by Senate 97-0 on 2/3/88)

David Souter (nominated by the first President Bush; confirmed by Senate 90-9 on 10/2/90):

Democrats voting against: Adams (WA), Akaka (HI), Bradley (NJ), Burdick (ND), Cranston (CA), Kennedy (MA), Kerry (MA), Lautenberg (NJ), Mikulski (MD).

Clarence Thomas (nominated by the first President Bush; confirmed by Senate 52-48 on 10/15/91):

Democrats voting against: Adams (WA), Akaka (HI), Baucus (MT), Bentsen (TX), Biden (DE), Bingaman (NM), Bradley (NJ), Bryan (NV), Bumpers (AR), Burdick (ND), Byrd (WV), Conrad (ND), Cranston (CA), Daschle (SD), Dodd (CT), Ford (KY), Glenn (OH), Gore (TN), Graham (FL), Harkin (IA), Heflin (AL), Inouye (HI), Kennedy (MA), Kerrey (NE), Kerry (MA), Kohl (WI), Lautenberg (NJ), Leahy (VT), Levin (MI), Lieberman (CT), Metzenbaum (OH), Mikulski (MD), Mitchell (ME), Moynihan (NY), Pell (RI), Pryor (AR), Reid (NV), Riegle (MI), Rockefeller (WV), Sanford (NC), Sarbanes (MD), Sasser (TN), Simon (IL), Wellstone (MN), Wirth (CO), Wofford (PA).

Republicans voting against: Jeffords (VT), Packwood (OR).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (nominated by Clinton; confirmed by Senate 96-3 on 8/3/93):

Republicans voting against: Helms (NC), Nickles (OK), Smith (NH)

Stephen Breyer (nominated by Clinton; confirmed by Senate 87-9 on 7/29/94):

Republicans voting against: Burns (MT), Coats (IN), Coverdell (GA), Helms (NC), Lott (MS), Lugar (IN), Murkowski (AK), Nickles (OK), Smith (NH)

Q: Assuming John Roberts is confirmed, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist does not retire, Rehnquist will be sitting on the court alongside his former clerk. When is the last time a law clerk and his or her former boss have served together on the Supreme Court? -- Jon Persky, South Windsor, Conn.

A: This would be the first time. In fact, until now, only four men who were later named to the court have ever clerked for a Supreme Court justice: Stephen Breyer, who clerked for Justice Arthur Goldberg in 1964-65; Rehnquist, who clerked for Justice Robert Jackson in 1952-53; John Paul Stevens, who clerked for Justice Wiley Rutledge in 1947-48; and Byron White, who clerked for Justice Fred Vinson in 1946-47.

Q: I've read many times that when Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-PA) voted for a tax increase that ultimately cost her her job, several Republicans got together on the House floor and yelled out, "Goodbye Marjorie!" Were these Republicans ever identified or denounced for being unprofessional? -- Michael Poirier, Pawtucket, R.I.

A: Not to my knowledge. The taunting may have been juvenile, but it spoke a greater truth: by voting for Bill Clinton's budget, which was touted by the administration as an economic stimulus package but which included huge tax increases, Margolies-Mezvinsky (hereafter "MMM") helped ensure her own defeat, and everyone knew it at the time.

On Aug. 5, 1993, the odds of survival for Clinton's budget were 50-50 at best. A defeat would have been a crushing blow to the new president. Not a single Republican was going to vote for the plan. At least 40 Democrats in the House (plus a half-dozen in the Senate) were also planning to vote no. For some reason, MMM found herself in the unenviable position of being the target of a huge lobbying effort by Clinton allies. MMM was a freshman member of Congress in a suburban Philadelphia district that was 2-1 Republican and hadn't elected a Democrat in 76 years. She won the seat, which was vacated by a veteran Republican incumbent, in 1992 by just 1,373 votes and was considered highly vulnerable for '94. Democrats may have bristled at the GOP heckling, but many saved their real anger for whoever's decision it was to put MMM in that position.

As the vote in the House was coming to a close, Democrats found themselves still two votes short. They found them in Pat Williams of Montana, and MMM. Her vote was the final one, and it made the difference. After she cast her vote, Democratic members patted her on the back; Republicans went into their mocking chant. The measure passed 218-216. (The next day saw a similarly nerve-wracking vote in the Senate. It passed there too, 51-50, and only after Vice President Gore cast the tie-breaking vote.)

Clinton got his budget package, which was credited by many for much of the economic boom that encompassed the 1990s. But in 1994 he watched Republicans effectively paint the bill as a tax increase, and 35 incumbent Democrats in the House -- including Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky -- went down to defeat.

Is There No Justice? My July 13 column listed every Supreme Court justice since Hugo Black in 1937 who previously had served in elective office. I put those words in italics because for some reason I've since gotten a slew of e-mails asking me why I failed to include William Howard Taft, who years before being named to the court in 1921 served as president. Taft was not included on my list because he was named to the court 16 years before Hugo Black. (Check out the June 23rd column to see a gorgeous Taft button from his 1908 campaign.)

This Day in Campaign History: Rep. Tommy Robinson (D-AR) switches to the Republican Party. Ten months later, his goal of taking on Gov. Bill Clinton ends when he is defeated in the GOP gubernatorial primary (July 28, 1989).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: