Supreme Court Confirmations – By the Numbers!

In a topsy-turvy two weeks of high political drama, the US Senate is on the brink of voting on the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the high court. If he does survive the FBI background check currently underway, and he is confirmed, it will be by the slimmest of margins. Perhaps even one vote. If he isn’t confirmed, he will be the first judge not confirmed by a floor vote since Robert Bork in the 1980s.

How does Kavanaugh’s possible confirmation stake up against those currently sitting on the bench. Let’s take a look at the intriguing numbers.

Of the previous nine Supreme Court justices confirmed by the Senate spanning three decades and five presidents, five have been nominated by Republican presidents and four by Democratic presidents. Two additional nominations during that time span were never voted upon. Harriet Miers, a George W. Bush nominee, withdrew from the process. Merrick Garland appointed by President Obama in 2016 never had hearings or a vote. With these two out of the picture, there are some voting patterns which are interesting to look at.

Let’s start with the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents: Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan.  Their combined confirmation vote tallies are 314 ‘yes’ votes and 80 ‘no’ votes for an overall approval rate of 80%. This clearly shows some broad non-partisan support from the Republic party towards Democratic nominees.

What about Republican nominees? The five appointed by Republican presidents were: Souter, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, & Gorsuch. Their combined confirmation vote tallies are 332 ‘yes’ votes and 166 ‘no’ votes for an overall approval rate of only 67%. However, if Souter, the only one of our list no longer on the Supreme Court, is dropped off this list, the numbers change to 242 ‘yes’ votes and ‘157’ which is only a 60% affirmative rate. Souter also is a bit of an anomaly because, though appointed by a Republican, he was widely viewed as a staunch liberal justice.

So, of the current Supreme Court members, Democratic appointed candidates fly through confirmation at an average of 80% affirmative votes but Republican candidates squeak by at only 60%, and this number will assuredly go down later this week when the Senate votes on Kavanaugh. Even if confirmed, it will likely be by a mere 1 or 2 votes. As a side note, a Democratic appointee hasn’t been rejected since the Grover Cleveland presidency. Yeah, it’s been a while.

What’s the reason for such a voting discrepancy?

Let’s pose a few ideas.

Option 1: Do conservatives have a more literal view of the constitution? As such, their role as “advice and consent” hinges more on whether a candidate is worthy of such a nomination regardless of whether they agree with his or her political persuasion? Ginsburg might be a good study here. She was clearly a judge with a very liberal voting record. She was even a member of the board of directors of the ACLU. Clearly liberal. Yet, qualified—even Republicans agreed by joining the Democrats in approving her appointment with an astonishing 96-3 vote. While something like that won’t happen today, you’ll still notice that Kagan and Sotomayor’s confirmations were much easier than all Republican-appointed justices since Roberts.

Option 2: Are liberals more aggressive in seeking their progressive agenda through the court systems? As such, they purposefully seek to confirm justices who they deem to be progressive and are more contentious with those candidates whom they deem will be a hinderance to progressivism? I think this is doubly true with the Kavanaugh nomination because of its significance related to Roe v. Wade.

Option 3. It’s all random?

Option 4: You make the call!

Here is a list of the last nine justices confirmed to the Supreme Court. What will be Kavanaugh’s numbers – if he makes it?

Gorsuch 54-45 (Trump)

Kagan 63-37 (Obama)

Sotomayor 68-31 (Obama)

Alito 58-42 (G. W. Bush)

John Roberts 78-22 (G. W. Bush)

Ginsburg 96-3 (Clinton)

Steven Breyer 87-9 (Clinton)

Thomas 52-48 (G. H. W. Bush)

David Souter 90-9 (G. H. W. Bush)

Whatever these numbers ultimately mean, Trump is going to have to fight and scrape for any of his nominations to get through, and if he did have to appoint a successor to Ginsburg, don’t hold your breath for 96 voting to confirm. Those days are long gone.

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Poignant Quote from JFK for The 2016 Election

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

John F. Kennedy

Hmmm. Now put this quote into the context of the 2016 US Presidential Election. Hard to do, isn’t it?

Politics has always been a partisan game. We know that – especially in the primary season when the target demographic is particularly partisan.

But wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a candidate who claimed to be the president of everyone. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a leader who used his or her language to signify an end to politics and partisanship as usual and attempt to be the president of every single person – even those he or she doesn’t agree with?

I want a Democratic president who will actively court Republican opinions.

I want a Republican president who will actively court Democratic opinions.

I want someone to say, “Enough of the division.”

Stop vilifying Wall Street executives, immigrants, conservatives, atheists, Republicans, Chinese, Christians, Muslims, oil companies, EPA, …

There’s always someone to attack. Someone to disagree with. Someone to threaten with a lawsuit. Someone to make fun of.

Yes, we will have differences, but a true leader will sit down in the middle of people with whom he or she disagrees and will engage them in thoughtful and respectful conversation. They won’t throw verbal bombs which simply entrench people further into their biases. That’s mainly what I’m hearing from most of the leading candidates from both parties. They are trying to divide and conquer. It’s too bad.

I’m looking for the candidate who wants to unite, who wants to engage, who wants to understand differences so change can occur that benefits us all. It’s not about the poor vs. the rich or the immigrants vs. the citizens or the Christians vs. the Muslims. This election is about the American people. All of them. Each one has a voice and deserves to be heard.

So who will be the president of every single person and not just their own narrow constituency?

That’s who I’m interested in.

I’m sorry to say it, but I just don’t think there are many JFK Democrats in leadership positions anymore.

 

Record Revenues! Record Debt! Why is $3.25 trillion not enough?

The numbers for fiscal year 2015 for the US Government are staggering. It has collected an all-time record of 3.25 trillion dollars. This is far and away the largest amount any government in history has ever collected from its people. Let’s look at that number again:

3,250,000,000,000

The American people and American corporations are paying more money to the government than ever before, and what do they get for it?  More debt.

That’s right. Even record revenues isn’t enough to stave off the ever-growing lust for spending coming out of Washington. Party politics matter not. Everyone gets in on the spending.

The Democrats tout the Obama administration for reducing the deficits in Washington by record levels. But I’m sorry, it’s hard to get excited about the deficit reduction when you look at it logically.

George W. Bush’s last full year in office was 2008. The budget deficit for that year reached an all-time high, a monstrous figure slightly beyond the $450 billion range. Ballooning the debt a half a trillion dollars a year seemed unfathomable. How naive we were!

The following years, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 all had budget deficits of three times that amount – each year in excess of $1.2 trillion. What? What just happened? To be fair, the bulk of the 2009 budget should be put on Bush’s lap because he signed the fiscal budget for Obama’s first year.

And now, in 2015, as the Democrats are lauding the reduction of deficits, where are we? We’re back down to that 2008 figure! So in eight years, we’ve set unbelievable deficit records and have ended by patting ourselves on the back for bringing the figure down to the highest in history prior to 2009 – and that when our treasury is collecting money at record levels! Sorry, I don’t see a whole to get excited about.

The Republicans are no better. They have controlled Congress for most of Obama’s presidency. All spending bills originate in the House of Representatives. The Republicans are the ones who always go on about reducing the size of government and reigning in spending, but they too can’t help themselves. They pass untold programs and bills which feed their narrow constituencies or back-scratch their cronies.

Should a country with a revenue of 3.25 trillion be able to live within its means?

Absolutely!

And now in this ultra-politicized presidential campaign season, the politicians are promising the world – free this – free that.

The reality is, as the deficits of the past nine years pile up on each other, we find ourselves worrying about crossing the $20 trillion debt threshold with no ending in sight.

Think of it. A country in debt $20,000,000,000,000.

Get your freebies while you can because pay-back day is coming.

I Need a Break From …

I need a break from Donald Trump’s pontificating with his talented, obnoxious big mouth.

I need a break from the Donald Trump haters, who add nothing helpful to the mix of ideas.

I need a break from Democrats and their pie in the sky charity wheel.

I need a break from Republicans and their 15 candidates who start to sound alike.

I need a break from the gun-haters, who complain about something that will never be changed.

I need a break from the NRA worshipers, who won’t accept even the most common sense approaches.

I need a break from Facebook meme’s which distort every point of view but their own.

I need a break from partisanship and frightening way we avoid the word “compromise.”

I need a break from an administration which doesn’t embrace every citizen’s opinion’s and concerns.

I need a break from a populace, that is critical of everything the administration does.

I need a break from the call of tolerance that belittles other people’s beliefs.

I need a break from vapid statements which ignore well-thought-out counterpoints.

I need a break from religious folk who criticize other religious folk.

I need a break from …

Life on the Internet …

so I can go and write.

 

My Grandpa, Baseball, & Democrats

My grandpa, whom I never had the privilege of knowing, was a staunch Republican. He ran a modest country store during the Great Depression and war years in Sarver, PA. All summer long he would have the radio on listening to Rowsey Rowswell call the play-by-play for his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates. (I have to lament a little here. My mother talks about all of the baseball cards that she had from the store throughout the 1940s. She admits they must have been thrown away. I shutter to think about it.)

When the country store talk eventually found itself in the political arena, my grandpa would be sure to show his displeasure for Roosevelt, and you have to admit, 12 years of FDR and the Democrats would have given the Republicans plenty to complain about.

By 1946, my grandpa would have plenty more to complain about. The Pirates went 63-91, setting off on 12 years of mostly futile play. After the 1952 season when the Pirates were an unbelievably horrible 40-112, it must have been quite the consolation for him when Ike won the presidency in November, putting the White House back in control for the first time since Hoover handed over the reins to FDR in March of 1932.

But I bet he would have traded the White House for a pennant.

The 1953 Pirates lost 104 games. The 1954 Pirates lost 101. At least he could read about Ike’s golf scores in the paper.

By the end of the 50’s, things were looking up for the Pittsburgh franchise. They had a winning season in 1958, and after stumbling back in 1959, were poised to compete for a pennant in 1960. There was another competition on the horizon, however. Nixon vs. Kennedy for the White House.

My grandfather, the WASP that he was, could not fathom a Catholic in the White House – and the prospect of a catholic Democrat made it all the more sinister.

But baseball took center stage first in the fall of 1960 – and what a fall it was! The Pittsburgh Pirates entering their first World Series in 33 years – a rematch of the 1927 series versus the dreaded New York Yankees.

That was a series for the ages, and my grandpa, who suffered through decades of bad teams, was finally rewarded when Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off, series winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field to do the impossible – beat the Yankees and win the series.

A month later, fortunes were not as favorable for my grandfather as Kennedy squeaked by Nixon in one of the closest elections of all time.

My grandfather died of a heart attack the next day. My mother says he couldn’t have taken it – having a catholic Democrat in the White House.

But he had satisfaction before he passed on. He saw the Pirates win, and perhaps that was enough.