The Senate’s thin history of blocking nominations


Senators Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte vowed to put a hold on the potential nomination of Ambassador Susan Rice yesterday, and Senator Susan Collins said after a meeting with Rice today that she is still “troubled.” How unique would it be for the Senate to block the nomination of a cabinet appointee? A look back at the history of cabinet confirmations by the Senate shows it’s happened less than 2% of the time.

The Senate has officially rejected just nine cabinet nominations, beginning with President Andrew Jackson’s nomination of Roger Taney for Treasury Secretary in 1834. The last time the Senate voted to block a nominee was in 1989, when President George H. W. Bush’s choice for Secretary of Defense, John Tower, was rejected twice.

Additionally, 12 other nominees were withdrawn or never put up for a vote. Most recently, President Obama withdrew his pick for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle in 2009 after a controversy surrounding his tax records.

Rejecting cabinet appointees doesn’t happen often, but given the GOP’s issues with Susan Rice, this time it wouldn’t be surprising.