Advising and Consenting in the 60-Vote Senate: Strategic Appointments to the Supreme Court


David W. Rohde is professor of political science, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708. Kenneth A. Shepsle is professor of government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.


The requirements of presidential nomination and Senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominees present two anomalies: under what circumstances can ideologically extreme nominees win confirmation and, given political polarization and the possibility of a filibuster, how are any nominees successful? This paper employs a simple unidimensional spatial model to explore these anomalies. The principal results show that little change in Court policy is possible with a single appointment, and this fact interacts with certain contexts to give the president a relatively free hand in choosing extreme nominees. Less firm conclusions are reached about the second anomaly, but the analysis sets the stage for further work on that aspect.