When Mitch McConnell opted not to hold a vote on former President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in early 2016, Democrats cried foul. McConell's argument was that because Obama was in his last year, was term limited and the presidential race was already in full swing, the decision should be left to the newly elected president to decide.
Republicans dubbed this "the Biden rule" when, in 1992, then-Senator Joe Biden made a speech on the floor of the Senate calling for a change in the standards for nominating a judge to the court “that would occur in the full throes of an election year.” The video of Biden's speech threw a wrench into President Obama's argument that the Senate was constitutionally bound to hold a vote on Garland.
Right or wrong, McConell's decision fired up the GOP base and gave many of them reason to head to the polls to vote for Republican nominee, Donald Trump. In a CNN exit poll following the election, 21% of voters said Supreme Court nominations were the most important factor and 48% said it was an important factor in determining their vote. In those categories, 56% of those who said Supreme Court nominations was the most important factor and 46% who said it was an important factor were Republican voters.
Clearly, nominating justices to the Supreme Court is a huge issue. Presidents can nominate justices that will potentially have impact on court decisions for decades, allowing those presidents to have a say in policy long after their administrations have ended. President Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch is a huge victory for the Republicans, but Democrats see it as a stolen seat, and with so much at stake, will likely be determined to make Gorsuch's confirmation process extremely difficult.
The information graphic below illustrates this point by showing the presidents since 1906 and the justices that were confirmed to the court during their respective administrations. Due to this lengthy timeline, some structural choices had to be made to make the graphic more readable. The image below is only a preview of the beginning of the infographic. In order to examine the entire graphic, please click the image or the text below to enlarge.
If you value this kind of visual storytelling, please like and share using the social media buttons found at the top of this blog post.
This infographic is part of a continuing series that presents information as accurately, objectively and impartially as possible. This series of information graphics will always reveal the sources used so readers can see the data for themselves and reach their own conclusions about what these graphics reveal. We encourage you to weigh information from multiple outlets in order to make informed judgments about the subjects featured in these infographics .
Click here to find out more about the impetus for this series.