Confirmation Controversies: An Overview

President-elect George W. Bush has picked his prospective Cabinet, but may have to fight some political battles to have all his nominations confirmed. Here is a look back at some of the most contentious confirmation struggles of recent years.

Nominated as Attorney General In February 1985, the Senate confirmed President Reagan’s appointment of Ed Meese as attorney general, by a 63-31 margin — but only after a bruising, yearlong confirmation process. It was one of the longest confirmation battles in history, dragged out amid questions about whether Meese gave government posts to people who lent him money. A special prosecutor looked into the allegations and found no wrongdoing.

Robert Bork (1987)

(AP Photo) Nominated for the Supreme Court Robert Bork, picked by President Reagan for the Supreme Court, was rejected 58-42 by a full Senate vote in October 1987 following a fierce four-month confirmation struggle. After Reagan named Bork in July, Democrats and interest groups gradually rallied support against the nominee by portraying him as a judicial extremist whose conservative views would roll back the country’s commitment to civil rights, privacy and individual liberties. Bork may also have hurt his own chances with an emphatic defense of his views, instead of taking a conciliatory approach, while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September. Six Republicans voted against Bork — a sign of Reagan’s waning political influence late in his second term. It marked just the fourth time in the 20th century that a Supreme Court appointee had been rejected. The rhetoric surrounding the vote was heated: Reagan called the hearings “an ugly spectacle marred by distortions,” a charge Democratic Sen. Terry Sanford deemed “slanderous.”

Douglas Ginsburg (1987)

Nominated for the Supreme Court Appeals court judge Douglas Ginsburg, picked by Reagan in October 1987 after Robert Bork’s appointment was rejected, withdrew his own nomination after just nine days. Following published reports, Ginsburg admitted having to smoking marijuana within the past decade, during his tenure as a professor at Harvard Law School. Ginsburg said his legal views were being “drowned out in all the clamor” over his past drug use.

John Tower (1989)

Nominated as Defense Secretary Former Texas Sen. John Tower was tapped by President Bush to become defense secretary, but the nomination quickly ran into trouble as opponents questioned Tower’s business dealings with defense contractors. The confirmation hearings also brought Tower’s personal life squarely into the public eye, with some critics alleging he drank excessively. At one point, Tower pledged to quit drinking entirely if confirmed, but his appointment was rejected 53-47 by the Senate in March 1993.

Clarence Thomas (1991)

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