To see how contentious nominations have become, count motions for “cloture,” which forces a vote when two sides can’t agree to move forward. From 1949 to 1968, there wasn’t a single nominee that needed a cloture motion. From 1967 to 1992, there were eleven. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, 22 nominees needed one. Under George W. Bush, 38 did. But under President Obama, that number has exploded, to a stunning 178, and counting.That’s illustrated above in the graphic by Olivia Hall that accompanied Stockman’s essay.
What’s more, the pattern through the last three decades of the 20th century was that the number of cloture votes rose when the opposition party was about to take control of the Congress, as in 1986 and 1994. In those years the minority party, sensing better opportunities ahead, stalled on nominations while the majority party tried to preserve them.
The current century shows two new patterns. First, cloture motions became more common from 2002 to 2006 during the Bush-Cheney presidency, though they slumped in the last two years when Democrats controlled the Senate. Second, the need for cloture votes returned immediately in 2009 after the election of President Obama, and then started to rise exponentially in 2012.