Supreme Court Nomination Process Q&A
Q: Who nominates justices to the Supreme Court?
A: Under Article II of the U.S. Constitution, the president has the sole power to nominate Supreme Court justices. The president works with various White House officials to examine potential nominees prior to selection, including the White House counsel’s office, the vice president, the chief of staff, and the attorney general.
Q: What happens after the president nominates a candidate?
A: The nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate after the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing. During the hearing, the nominee gives testimony and answers questions from the committee's members. The committee then votes on whether to put the nominee before the Senate. Members of the Senate have the opportunity to debate on whether to consider the nominee and must reach unanimous consent to move forward.
If the committee votes to move forward with the nominee, the U.S. Senate will then vote on the nomination. A majority vote must be achieved.
Q: What happens if the Senate does not approve the nomination?
A: The president must start the process again by recommending another nominee.
Q: What happens after a justice is confirmed by the Senate?
A: The president issues a written commission to the nominee, who then must take two oaths of office – the Constitutional Oath and the Judicial Oath – before being sworn in and assuming official duties as a Supreme Court justice.
Q: How long does it take to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court?
A: There are many factors that can determine the length of time it takes to fill a justice vacancy in the Supreme Court, such as the presidential election cycle and whether the Senate is in session. The Senate confirmation process can also be a factor depending on debates and filibusters. A study by the Congressional Research Service reveals that the average time it takes from nomination to final Senate vote is two to three months.
Q: Can only eight justices control the bench? Are tied decisions possible?
A: Yes, eight justices can continue to carry out the functions of the Supreme Court during an active term. If a tied 4-4 vote for a case occurs, then the ruling of the lower court is upheld.
To learn more about Justice Scalia and his legacy, click here.