Many informed observers believe that the Senate will confirm no more federal appellate judges this year. So it’s worth noting that the Senate has confirmed only four federal appellate-court nominees in 2008—and one of those four, the result of a deal struck with Democratic senator Carl Levin, was former Clinton nominee (and former Levin cousin-in-law) Helene White. By contrast, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed eight of President Clinton’s nominees in 2000.
If you expand the time frame of comparison to the last two years of each presidency (the 110th Congress versus the 106th Congress), a similar gap results. Since January 2007, the Senate has confirmed a total of 10 federal appellate judges. In 1999 and 2000, the Senate confirmed 15 federal appellate judges.
According to the Federal Judicial Center database, during President Bush’s entire presidency the Senate has confirmed 61 courts-of-appeals nominees, compared to 66 during President Clinton’s presidency. (I see at least one nominal error in the database: it doesn’t count Fourth Circuit judge Roger Gregory as a Bush appointee. Clinton recess-appointed Gregory, and then Bush, in an unrequited act of goodwill, appointed him to a lifetime position in 2001. So the actual totals may be 62 vs. 65.)
Given how bitterly Senate Democrats have complained about the Senate’s treatment of Clinton nominees, it’s noteworthy that slightly fewer Bush appellate-court nominees have been confirmed. Indeed, it’s all the more noteworthy since the Senate had a same-party-as-the-president majority (making confirmation easier) for a much larger part of the Bush presidency.