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Reagan’s Supreme Court Appointments

February 15, 2016

On October 14, 1980 candidate Ronald Reagan promised to appoint a woman to “one of the first Supreme Court vacancies in my administration.” He kept that promise on August 19, 1981 when he nominated Sandra Day O’Connor. The Senate confirmed her by a vote of 99 – 0.

In 1986 Reagan nominated Antonin Scalia. He was confirmed by a vote of 98 – 0.

In 1987 Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy, who is still on the Supreme Court. He was confirmed 97 – 0. That was the last time the Senate unanimously confirmed a Supreme Court appointee.

O’Connor’s appointment was the result of a specific promise, and Kennedy’s appointment came after Reagan’s first choice was rejected and his second choice withdrew. But when President Reagan chose Antonin Scalia, he was making a statement regarding his own judicial philosophy. Perhaps Justice Scalia summed it up best in a 2015 statement: “A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

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