Barack Obama nominated his third justice, Merrick Garland, to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
While Senate Republicans have refused to confirm any Supreme Court nominee during a contentious election year, it’s a good time to take a look at the history of appointments.
This graphic from ValuePenguin shows how many successful Supreme Court nominations each president has made.
George Washington, the first president, had the opportunity to fill the entire bench with his own selections, after the Judiciary Act was passed in 1789, which created the federal courts.
The original act set the number of justices on the court at six, and the number of justices fluctuated throughout the early nineteenth century. The Judiciary Act of 1869 officially set the number at nine judges.
While the court only had six judges in total, Washington nominated eleven judges over his two terms.
Roosevelt, who remains the only president to serve more two terms and win four successive elections, appointed eight justices to the Supreme Court during his tenure.
The average number of appointments per president — which includes some one-term presidents like Jimmy Carter who nominated no justices — is 2.6. Presidents with two full terms, excluding Roosevelt and Washington, appointed an average of 3.1 justices.
In addition to Jimmy Carter, William Harrison, Zachary Taylor, and Andrew Johnson made no appointments.
Some presidents beat the average, like Andrew Jackson, who appointed a total of six justices to the court, and William Howard Taft, who appointed five justices to the court.
Taft is notably the only person to have held the presidency, and served as the chief justice on the Supreme Court.
The history becomes relevant when you consider the likelihood of Obama’s appointment being successful: Out of 114 total appointments to the Supreme Court, 22 were appointed during an election year. Half of these judges were nominated that same year.
According to ValuePenguin, that means almost 20% of Supreme Court appointments actually happened during election years.
And, of the 26 total justices nominated during an election year (regardless of their eventual appointment), half were eventually confirmed by the Senate.
Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee, is gearing up for a tough confirmation fight.
Though he’s considered a centrist pick, leading Republican senators have refused to meet with Garland privately. Some Republicans, however, like Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), have indicated that they will hold meetings.
A majority of Americans want the Senate to at least hold hearings for Garland, according to the Pew Research Center.
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