Here are the steps as I understand them and then questions to which I have not found answers.


  1. The President nominates a candidate for the Supreme Court.
  2. A subset of the Senate (called the Senate Judiciary Committee) interviews the nominee.
  3. The full Senate votes (majority rules or as @Brythan points out a supermajority in case of filibuster) to confirm the nomination. This does not occur if the Senate Judiciary Committee does not sign off on the nominee.
  4. If the vote passes then the President appoints the candidate.


  1. How many senators in the Senate Judiciary Committee (comprising 20 senators) are required to stop the candidate from proceeding to a vote?
  2. Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch (who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee) have said they do not want to hold hearings for the nominee. What are the criteria by which senators can block a hearing? Or does this just mean that they want the Senate Judiciary Committee to interview the nominee and then not allow the nominee to proceed to the full Senate voting stage?
  • Hearing is scheduled by the committee. They don't have to schedule it if they don't want to. It's good to be The Boss.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 15:58
  • @user4012 What are the criteria by which the committee doesn't have to issue a hearing? i.e. Can a single senator prevent the hearing? 10 senators? All 20?
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 20:50
  • There are literally dozens of nominees that have been awaiting confirmation for the entire session, that will never get a vote. Its not uncommon for committees that do not want to see an appointee approved to fail to schedule hearings to block the nominee from ever getting to the vote. Most of them are for lower positions like judgeships, and higher level government positions(below cabinet level) Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 21:56
  • You left out that they can't hold the confirmation vote until debate is closed. It takes a supermajority to override a filibuster to close debate. So while the vote technically only requires a bare majority, in practice it requires a supermajority.
    – Brythan
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 4:46
  • @Chad Interesting. Do you know the answer to the criteria question?
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 23:43

1 Answer 1


Well your process is missing a few things.

The nomination Confirmation process in a nutshell:

  1. President Nominates

    1a. Nominee accepts or rejects the nomination

  2. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings

    2a. The Senate Judiciary Committee schedule interviews with the candidate (Certian members of the whole senate may choose to request the interviews as well which traditionally are honored)

    2b. The Judiciary Chair schedules hearings, tradition holds that the hearings are not scheduled until all members have a chance to interview the nominee

    2c. The Judiciary Committee holds hearings where the committee can ask on the record questions of the nominee that can help guide the senate as a whole in the confirmation decision. However recently this has mostly devolved into presidents party lobs softballs, and the opposing side asks questions that are thinly veiled attacks on the character of the nominee and the nominee dodges any questions that happen to have any real meat.

    2d. The Committee votes to recommend or reject the candidate. This vote is mostly ceremonial as if the committee votes likely reject the nominee the president often withdraws the nomination to avoid the spectacle. However the Chairman has no requirement to actually schedule the vote so the committee chair could freeze the nominee in the process by not scheduling the committee vote. There are several lower court nominees that are stuck in this part of the process.

  3. Senate Debate. Every Senator is given the chance to make statements and engage in debate about the nominee. There is no limit to the time that any senator can take and this is where a filibuster could take place. A filibuster is where a senator or group of senators continue on often about things that have nothing to do with the debate. In order to end a filibuster a cloture vote is required that would take at least 60 senators voting for cloture to enact.

  4. Senate Vote. Following the cloture vote the Senate as a whole votes. This requires a majority vote to confirm. If the nominee is rejected the process starts anew with the president introducing a new nomination.

  5. Presidential Appointment. Once the vote is complete and the nominee is confirmed the president then can make the formal appointment to the position. The president is not obligated to make the appointment, but if he chooses not to then the process would have to be started anew.

  • Really thorough answer, but I'm not sure about #5. Is that really a separate step?
    – Bobson
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 17:38
  • @Bobson yes it is. The president can choose not to appoint even once it is confirmed. It is technically called commisioning the appointment. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marbury_v._Madison Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 17:46
  • Interesting. I'd focused on the judicial review part of that case, but not the timing leading up to it. I guess in this day and age, it's almost a formality, but you're right to include it.
    – Bobson
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 17:53
  • 1
    @Bobson - well it could matter. Say the Democrat candidate wins the presidential election. It would then be in the current senates best interest to fast track the current nominee as the next nominees are unlikely to be any thing but far left. But Obama can choose not to execute the commission, and either make a new nomination before the end of his term, or leave it for the next president who will be a democrat. I can not see Obama giving up the chance to shape the court himself but it is a potential outcome. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 17:58

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