Confirmation Controversies: An Overview

(Joe Marquette/AP Photo) Nominated for the Supreme Court Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas was the subject of the most unusual confirmation battle of recent decades. Initially, Thomas, then an appeals court judge, seemed likely to be approved by the Senate in routine fashion, although numerous Democrats charged he was too conservative or inexperienced to be appointed, and had not been forthcoming in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the tenor of the confirmation process changed after law professor Anita Hill, who had worked for Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, testified before the Senate that he had harrassed her at work by making sexually suggestive comments and by describing pornographic movies he had watched. After lengthy televised hearings in which Thomas claimed he was being subjected to a “high-tech lynching,” he was confirmed 52-48 by the Senate in October 1991.

Zoe Baird (1993)

(AP Photo) Nominated as Attorney General President Clinton’s first choice to be attorney general, Zoe Baird, then general counsel of Aetna Corp., withdrew after one day of confirmation hearings in January 1993 after the public disclosure that she and her husband had employed a Peruvian couple — a nanny and a chauffeur — without work papers.

Kimba Wood (1993)

Nominated as Attorney General Kimba Wood, a judge from New York, was President Clinton’s choice for attorney general following Zoe Baird’s withdrawal. But Wood, too, was forced to withdraw abruptly after disclosing she had hired an illegal immigrant as a baby sitter in 1986. Wood insisted she had been in compliance with the law, which at the time allowed the hiring of undocumented workers, but acknowledged she had not fully explained the situation to the president’s staff when being considered for the post.

Lani Guinier (1993)

(AP Photo) Nominated as Assistant Attorney General In June 1993, President Clinton withdrew the nomination of Lani Guinier, an attorney and law professor he had picked as assistant attorney general for civil rights. Guinier had drawn heavy criticism from Republicans over her views on affirmative action and voting rights. In pulling the plug on Guinier’s nomination, Clinton said he had come to realize she endorsed views “that I, myself, cannot embrace.” But Guinier continued to insist that she had been “the right person for the job.”

Bobby Ray Inman (1994)

Nominated as Defense Secretary Bobby Ray Inman, a former admiral in the Navy, withdrew his nomination as defense secretary in January 1994, apparently concerned about inquiries into his past business dealings. At a news conference announcing his decision, Inman accused his critics of practicing “modern McCarthyism.”

Henry Foster (1996)

(AP Photo) Nominated as Surgeon General President Clinton’s choice to replace Dr. Joycelyn Elders as surgeon general, Dr. Henry Foster, was stymied in June 1995, when a Republican-led filibuster in the Senate blocked his nomination. Foster’s career as a gynecologist who had performed abortions helped galvanize GOP opposition to his appointment.

William Weld (1997)

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