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Senate Vote Tally Sheet for John Goodwin Tower’s Nomination to be Secretary of Defense, March 9, 1989

Nearly two months of Senate hearings raised concerns about John Goodwin Tower’s character. Charges emerged of his excessive drinking, improper relationships with women, and questionable work for defense contractors. With only four members crossing party lines, the Senate voted 47–53 not to confirm. It was a historic rejection of a former senator.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Senate Vote Tally Sheet for John Goodwin Tower’s Nomination to be Secretary of Defense, March 9, 1989

The Senate Rejects a Cabinet Nominee

President George H. W. Bush nominated John Goodwin Tower, a former U.S. senator from Texas, to be secretary of defense in his first cabinet. Tower had served twenty years on the Senate Armed Services Committee and chaired it for three, so his confirmation seemed assured. Hearings on Tower’s nomination grew rancorous, however, as allegations about alcoholism, womanizing, and consulting for defense contractors aroused concerns about national security and conflicts of interest. The Senate voted largely on party lines to reject Tower’s nomination.

Nominations of standing and former senators to cabinet positions are not guaranteed Senate approval. In 1989, for the first time, the Senate rejected the nomination of one of their former colleagues for a cabinet post.