Senate Confirms Thomas By 52 to 48 to Succeed Marshall on Supreme Court
Wednesday, October 16, 1991
The Senate yesterday voted 52 to 48 to confirm Clarence Thomas as the 106th justice of the Supreme Court in a tense but low-key conclusion to its emotionally charged probe of sexual harassment charges against him.
Thomas, 43, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals here, will succeed retired associate justice Thurgood Marshall and become the second black, after Marshall, to sit on the nation's highest court. A conservative, he is expected to reinforce the conservative majority on the court.
The margin of victory was much closer than Republicans had predicted before last week, when allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas by Anita F. Hill, a former aide, caused a national uproar. Still, only three of 13 Democrats who had declared their support for Thomas ended up voting against him.
Hill's charges that Thomas harassed her while she worked for him at the Education Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the early 1980s delayed the confirmation vote by a week and prompted an unprecedented weekend of hearings that held the nation spellbound for three days.
Yesterday's vote was the closest this century for a successful Supreme Court nominee. The record for the largest number of negative votes had been the 33 senators who opposed William H. Rehnquist when he was elevated from associate justice to chief justice in 1986.
On the roll call yesterday, watched by a packed visitors' gallery, 11 Democrats joined 41 Republicans to confirm Thomas. Forty-six Democrats and two Republicans opposed confirmation.