Nominations to the Supreme Court During Years of Divided and Unified Party Government

Source: Barry J. McMillion, Congressional Research Service, CRS Insight, IN10458, March 16, 2016

This CRS Insight provides data and analysis related to nominations made to the Supreme Court during years of unified and divided party government. Specifically, for the purposes of this Insight, “unified party government” is defined as when the party of the President is the same as the majority party in the Senate. Conversely, “divided party government” is defined as when the party of the President is different than the majority party in the Senate. Given that the House of Representatives does not have a formal constitutional role in the selection and Confirmation process for Supreme Court Justices, it is not included in the analysis below.

In general, divided party government has been relatively more common during the post-War period (i.e., since 1946) than it was during the earlier half of the twentieth century. Consequently, the period from 1946 to the present is the focus of this particular Insight. From 1900 to 1945, there were two years (1919 and 1920) in which the party of the President was different than the majority party in the Senate (compared to nearly 32 such years from 1946 to the present). Of the nearly 32 years of divided party control since 1946, 22 years were with a Republican President and Democratic majority in the Senate.