Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is Burning the Blue Slip for some Judicial Nominees.
The Iowa Republican announced Thursday that he is going ahead with a Confirmation hearing for a Nominee to the powerful Appellate Courts despite the Objections of a Democrat who had been Blocking the Nomination for Months. The move will likely Escalate the Judicial Wars in the Senate.
Grassley says he has Scheduled Hearings for David Stras, a Nominee to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Stras’ Home State Senator, said earlier this year that he would not Return the so-called Blue Slip for Stras because of his Conservative Ideology.
“The Democrats seriously regret that they abolished the filibuster, as I warned them they would,” Grassley said in his Floor Speech. “But they can’t expect to use the blue slip courtesy in its place. That’s not what the blue slip is meant for.”
The Blue Slip asks whether a Senator Approves or Disapproves of a Nominee from their State.
Grassley also will announce that he will hold a Hearing for Kyle Duncan, picked by President Trump to serve on the 5th Circuit. His Home State Senator, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), has returned a Blue Slip, but he noted that he was Undecided on the Nomination as he submitted the Paper.
The Blue Slip process is a Century-old Senate Tradition that says the Judiciary Committee doesn’t hold a Confirmation Hearing for potential Judges without Approval from the Candidate’s Home State Senators. Senators return an actual Blue Slip to the Committee.
It is also one of the Democrats’ last Major Leverage Points over Trump’s Judicial Nominees, after they Voted to Kill the Filibuster for most Nominations four years ago. The Republicans Abolished the 60-Vote Threshold for Filibusters on Supreme Court Picks earlier this year.
At least Four Democrats have not Returned Blue Slips for Trump’s Circuit Nominees: Senators Franken, Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
Previous Committee Chairs have rigidly adhered to the Blue-Slip Rule for District Court Nominees, whose Courts span just a Single State. But they have been more flexible for the more influential and powerful Circuit Courts. “I’ll add that I’m less likely to proceed on a district court nominee who does not have two positive blue slips from home-state senators,” Grassley said. “But circuit courts cover multiple states. There’s less reason to defer to the views of a single state’s senator for such nominees.”
In his Speech Thursday, Grassley noted that just Two out of 18 previous Chairmen allowed One Senator “to wield veto power over a nominee”, including former Vice President Joe Biden, a former Judiciary Committee Chairman himself.
But Democrats pointed out that Grassley, as Chairman during the final two years of Barack Obama's Presidency, Declined to hold Hearings for Nine of Obama's Judicial Picks because of the Blue Slip Policy. Four were to the Appellate Courts, while Five were District Court Nominees.
“Chairman Grassley’s decision do away with a 100-year old Senate tradition just 10 months into the Trump administration couldn’t be more troubling," said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “The lengths to which Republicans are going to jam extremely conservative and controversial nominees through the Senate is unprecedented."
Grassley also argued that the Blue Slip is “not meant to signify the senator’s ultimate support or opposition to the nominee," but merely whether the Person should Receive a Hearing. “Some of my Democratic colleagues and left-wing outside groups mistakenly assert that the blue slip affords a home-state senator veto power over a nominee,” Grassley said. “That is not true.”
Ideology isn’t the Sole Reason why some Democratic Senators have tried to Obstruct a handful of Trump Judicial Nominees. For example, Wyden and Merkley said the White House went against Oregon’s Standard Tradition of using a Bipartisan Nominating Commission to come up with potential Candidates. “I won’t allow the White House to just steamroll home-state senators,” Grassley said. “But, as I’ve said all along, I won’t allow the blue slip process to be abused. I won’t allow senators to prevent a Committee hearing for political or ideological reasons.”
The Hearing will be held Nov. 29th. Grassley says both Duncan and Stras “appear to be well-qualified” and Deserve to be considered by his Committee. The move immediately Infuriated Liberal Advocacy Groups focused on the Judiciary.
“Senators from both parties have used the blue slip process to demand meaningful consultation when it comes to choosing nominees for their own states," said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President for People For the American Way. "And Republicans used blue slips for years to block President Obama’s nominees for the flimsiest reasons. Simply put, this was a test of Charles Grassley’s moral character. He failed.”
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