Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations

By Norman Vieira; Leonard Gross | Go to book overview

15
MOUNTING PRESSURE: THE UNCOMMITTED SENATORS

The battle over the Bork nomination generated extraordinary political pressure, and those receiving the most pressure were the so-called uncommitted members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. At one point, Howell Heflin said his arms had "been twisted by both sides 'so much that they're both ready for transplants.' "1 Arlen Specter's office reported that Specter received two phone calls threatening his life if he did not vote the caller's way on the Bork nomination. One caller was pro-Bork; the other was anti-Bork.2 The pressure on senators took many forms: personal letters, telephone calls, advertisements, petitions, and behindthe-scenes politicking. Although some senators later denied that political considerations had influenced their vote on Judge Bork, a few were candid enough to admit that the numerical strength and the intensity of the Bork opposition were significant factors in their decision to vote against confirmation.

The offices of Senators DeConcini, Heflin, and Specter were inundated with letters and telephone calls. Senator Specter received fifty thousand pieces of mail before the end of September. By October 6, the date set for the Judiciary Committee's vote on the nomination, Heflin's office had also received fifty thousand mailings.3 However, the impact of these mailings on Heflin was somewhat limited. First, according to Heflin's press aide, Jerry Ray, less than 15 percent of Heflin's communications were from Alabama; most of the calls and letters came from California and Texas. Second, many of the communications consisted of unsigned letters that had been generated by a few committed volunteers.

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