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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

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Volume 13, Issue 4


Nuclear Fallout: Investigating the Effect of Senate Procedural Reform on Judicial Nominations

Christina L. Boyd
  • Department of Political Science, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Michael S. Lynch
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Political Science, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Anthony J. Madonna
  • Department of Political Science, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2016-02-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2015-0042


On November 21, 2013, U.S. Senate Democrats utilized the long threatened “nuclear option,” thereby allowing a simple-majority of the chamber to end debate on lower federal court judicial nominations. Formal theory predicts that this change should permit the president to nominate more ideologically extreme nominees. By comparing President Obama’s nominees before and after the Senate’s change to the confirmation process, we are able to provide the first comprehensive examination of how the nuclear option is likely to impact the ideological makeup of the lower federal courts. We additionally examine the impact of the nuclear option on time to confirmation and nominee success. Our results indicate, while post-nuclear option nominees are not significantly more liberal, they are being confirmed more often and more quickly, allowing Obama and Senate Democrats to more efficiently fill the federal judiciary with Democratic-leaning judges.


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About the article

Christina L. Boyd

Christina L. Boyd is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on the quantitative examination of judges and litigants in federal courts.

Michael S. Lynch

Michael S. Lynch is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on Congress, inter-branch politics and quantitative methods.

Anthony J. Madonna

Anthony J. Madonna is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia. His research interests include American political institutions and development, with an emphasis on congressional and presidential politics.

Corresponding author: Michael S. Lynch, Department of Political Science, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia, E-mail:

Published Online: 2016-02-24

Published in Print: 2015-12-01

Citation Information: The Forum, Volume 13, Issue 4, Pages 623–641, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, ISSN (Print) 2194-6183, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2015-0042.

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