Dr. Steven Taylor, of PoliBlog, finds a paper by UMass [Amherst] Professor Sheldon Goldman on the history of the judicial nomination process, The Senate and Judicial Nominations – (Extensions, Spring 2004) – that examines the history of judicial nominations and the confirmation process. The paper presents an unpoliticized history of contentious nominations and Senatorial obstruction.
The second half of the paper is devoted to the development and analysis of an objective measure of obstruction and delay Goldman call the Index of Obstruction and Delay. He uses the index to analyze judicial nominations back to the 95th Congress. In a nutshell, he finds that in periods of divided government (different parties controlling the Presidency and the Senate) the index is high, and in periods of unified government (the same party controlling the Presidency and the Senate) the index is low. Only the unified period marked by the return of control in the Senate to Republicans in 2003 does not conform. The index shows how in this period of unified government the Index of Obstruction and Delay is at historically high levels normally associated with periods of divided government.
It does not bode well for the confirmation process that the indexes for the first session of the 108th Congress were so relatively high. Divided government had previously been associated with high indexes. But if obstruction and delay becomes more common under unified government, that could turn what once was a relatively civilized and functional process into what has increasingly become an unpleasant, prolonged, and dysfunctional process.
Which, of course is exactly where we are today…