Supreme Court confirmation by Nov. 3 would be difficult but not unprecedented

Laura Davison

The U.S. Senate would have to move unusually quickly to confirm President Donald Trump’s planned replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court before Election Day.

Trump said he planned to announce his nominee on Friday or Saturday, which would be less than 40 days until the Nov. 3 election. Only two times since 1975 has the chamber been able to confirm a Supreme Court pick in less time. The late John Paul Stevens’s confirmation in 1975 took just 19 days, while former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor saw 33 days elapse from when she was nominated until a Senate vote in 1981.

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Ginsburg herself had the third-shortest wait in that time – 42 days.The average period since 1975 from nomination to Senate vote is 69.6 days, according to a 2018 report from the Congressional Research Service. If the Senate moved at its typical pace, it would confirm a nominee by late November or early December, depending how quickly Trump nominates a replacement.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky., takes the elevator as he leaves a Senate Republican policy meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Washington. McConnell has promised a vote on Trump’s nominee, but hasn’t set a timetable.

The time between nomination and a confirmation vote has increased significantly since the early days of the nation, when it used to be common for nominees to receive a Senate vote within days. Some justices, including one tapped by President George Washington, were confirmed the same day they were nominated.

Trump said Monday that he plans to name a replacement by the end of this week, and he’s urging the Senate to quickly follow with hearings and a vote before the election. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote on Trump’s nominee, but hasn’t set a timetable. Senators typically meet with the nominee one-on-one during the confirmation process, which includes a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, to learn more about their views on legal matters and the court’s role.

“The vote, the final vote, should be taken frankly before the election, we have plenty of time for that,” Trump said on Fox News, referring to the election to decide control of the White House and Congress 43 days from now. “If you have the Senate, if you have the votes, you can sort of do what you want as long as you have it.”