Consultation

I have to disagree slightly with Ed Whelan on the issue of consultation with the Senate over nominees. As I understand it, pre-nomination consultation has been the norm for quite some time. For decades Presidents have consulted extensively with home state Senators on district court nominees, and even for circuit court nominees. Recall that President Bush decided not to nomination Chris Cox for the Ninth Circuit or Peter Keisler for the Fourth after consulting with home state Senators. Historically, lack of consultation has also been a reason to observe a home-state Senator’s negative blue slip. Clinton’s failure to consult with either Texas Senator was a reason his Fifth Circuit nominees had trouble. On the other hand, consultation has never been a veto. Thus, the Bush Administration sought extensive consultation with the Michigan Senators to find acceptable nominees, but proceeded with the “Michigan four” once it was clear that the Michigan Senators were holding out for Senator Levin’s relative. There is also a record of some consultation on Supreme Court nominees — as in some pre-nomination discussions so as to avoid the most inflammatory nominee (which is why, some claim, Bruce Babbitt was never nominated by President Clinton). Again, however, consultation is not any sort of “veto” on the President’s power to nominate judges. If this is how consultation is understood, I don’t think it’s such a big deal.

Jonathan H. Adler — Jonathan H. Adler teaches courses in environmental, administrative, and constitutional law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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