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The ABC's of the Appointment Process: Advice, Bureaucratic Politics and Consent

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Who will judge the judge flashed the advertisement on Washington area televisions in mid-September 1991. Above those words appeared the faces of three liberal Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee - Edward Kennedy, Joseph Biden, and Alan Cranston each of whom had survived a celebrated scandal and would soon vote on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to serve on the Supreme Court. Sponsored by two independent right wing groups, the advertisement was intended to influence the Senates confirmation process in favor of Judge Thomas, by neutralizing prospective anti-Thomas commercials similar to those used to defeat the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert Bork in 1987. The sponsors were also meddling with a very basic constitutional process the appointment process by attempting to embarrass and intimidate certain senators into voting affirmatively to confirm Judge Thomas. The use of the media, as illustrated by this case, is only one example of the not-so-subtle institutional, political and social forces that influence the appointment process. In fact, both the Presidents choice of nominees and the Senates exercise of its advice and conserve power over federal appointments are frequently affected by bureaucratic politics. To some extent external pressures were expected by the original Framers of the Constitution but they could not have anticipated the dramatic growth of federal bureaucracies, the expanded oversight role of the modern Congress, and the strong influence exerted by aggressive media and special interest groups.

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  • Government and Political Science

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