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"Blue Slip" Home-State Senator Blockades & Other Delays of Nominees

Blue Slips

10 Things You Need To Know About Blue Slips: Republicans repeatedly used the tradition to block President Obama’s judicial nominees. (Huffington Post, 09/13/17)
Christopher Kang, Former Deputy Counsel to President Obama: Both home-state senators receive a blue slip, and each senator must return a positive blue slip for a judicial nominee to be confirmed — with only three exceptions in 100 years, the most recent in 1989.... overriding negative blue slips would diminish every senator’s influence over his or her home-state’s judicial nominees.... A judge has never been confirmed over the objections of both home-state senators.... Objections by Republican home-state senators have always been respected.... During the Obama administration, Republicans blocked 18 judicial nominees through blue slips.... he Judiciary Committee—under both Chairmen Leahy and Grassley—made zero blue slip exceptions during the Obama administration....When Republicans blocked nominees by withholding their blue slips, they often refused to examine or discuss a nominee’s record and based their objections solely on process — despite a record that suggests months or even years of consultation.... When Republicans returned their blue slips, it could take many months — or even years — to do so, undermining Republican whining now that Democrats are taking a few months to review nominees’ records.... There is no Democratic abuse of the blue slips, as Democrats already have returned blue slips on four circuit court nominees — including two on President Trump’s Supreme Court short-list.... We must uphold the Grassley-Leahy-Hatch blue slip standard.... According to Senator Leahy, “[Chairman Grassley] told me he was going to follow the same procedures as chairman. And I take him at his word…I’ve known him for over 30 years. He’s never broken his word to me.” Instead, Senate Republicans should heed the words of Senator Hatch — who also is the longest serving Republican senator: “I sincerely hope that the majority will not continue to sacrifice the good of the Senate and the good of the country simply to serve short-term political interests. I’m glad Chairman Leahy has preserved the blue slip process. It should stay that way.

Sen. Leahy: Grassley said he would follow same blue slip procedures-- over 30 years "He’s never broken his word to me.
(Democrat - Vermont) 06/22/17 
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), stuck by the practice for years when he was chairman ― even when Republicans routinely abused it to block Obama’s nominees.... “Sen. Grassley made it very clear that he appreciated what I did when there was a Republican president and Democratic president, applying the blue slips,” Leahy told HuffPost. “He told me he was going to follow the same procedures as chairman. And I take him at his word,” he added. “I’ve known him for over 30 years. He’s never broken his word to me.

Sen. Hatch Op-Ed: Protect the Senate’s important 'advice and consent' role
(Republican - Utah) 04/11/14 
"The blue slip process is a Judiciary Committee tradition that dates back nearly a century .... it has greatly enhanced consultation and cooperation between home state senators and the White House. As Judiciary chairman, I continued this blue slip tradition. Not a single district court nominee received a committee hearing, and not one appeals court nominee was confirmed without the support of their home state senators.... As had been the case for more than a century, the filibuster and the blue slip process work together to make meaningful “advice and consent” a reality and to preserve a real check on the president’s appointment power.... Weakening or eliminating the blue slip process would sweep aside the last remaining check on the president’s judicial appointment power. Anyone serious about the Senate’s constitutional “advice and consent” role knows how disastrous such a move would be. ... A confirmation process without filibuster or blue slip veto would weaken the collaboration between the president and the Senate, further politicize the confirmation process, and ultimately produce a more politicized federal judiciary. I sincerely hope that the majority will not continue to sacrifice the good of the Senate and the good of the country simply to serve short-term political interests. I’m glad Chairman Leahy has preserved the blue slip process. It should stay that way."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley stated before and after the 2016 election that he “will continue to honor the blue-slip process,” which requires consent from both home-state Senators to allow a Committee hearing or vote a district court or circuit court of appeals nominee.

A Democratic senator's obscure move highlights the biggest roadblock Trump faces in his quest to remake the courts (Business Insider09/06/17)
"Glenn Sugameli, an attorney who is an expert on judicial nominations, told Business Insider in an email that "no circuit court nominees have been confirmed over [a blue slip] objection of one (or two) home state senators — including under Obama."... Sugameli said the past two chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee — Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa — blocked every Obama nominee who was unable to obtain both blue slips."

In April 2017, Sen. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) erroneously described the history of the requirement that the Committee will not process a Circuit Court of Appeals or district court nomination unless both home-state Senators submit a “blue slip” claiming that “There’s always been some exceptions to it, but we’re committed to it,” he said of the blue slips. Contrary to Chairman Grassley, there have NOT "always been some exceptions to it." As Sen. Grassley previously told his constituents in an Op-Ed opinion column he published in the Des Moines Register "Judiciary Committee chairs of both parties have upheld a blue-slip process, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, my immediate predecessor in chairing the committee, who steadfastly honored the tradition even as some in his own party called for its demise."

Throughout Obama's presidency then-Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (and Chairman Grassley) made NO exceptions from requiring both home-state Senator blue slips for Obama circuit court and district court nominees. They blocked those who lacked one of two blue slips, including, for example, Pennsylvania Third Circuit nominee Rebecca Haywood, and Indiana Seventh Circuit nominee Myra C. Selby, as well as those who lacked two blue slips, including Kentucky Sixth Circuit nominee Lisabeth Hughes, and Alabama Eleventh Circuit nominee Abdul K. Kallon, Arvo Mikkanen (N.D. Okla.) and others.

Indeed, then-Chairman Leahy refused to proceed even after Obama Tenth Circuit nominee Steve Six's blue slip was belatedly withdrawn after his Judiciary Committee hearing, and blocked a hearing for Elissa Cadish (D. Nev.) despite urging by then-Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to move his home-state district court nominee. Leahy blocked every Obama nominee who lacked two blue slips and every one who lacked one of two blue slips, including Cadish, Seventh Circuit nominee Victoria F. Nourse, and Louis Butler, Jr. (W.D. Wis.), as well as William Thomas (S.D. Fla.) and Mary Barzee Flores (S.D. of FL), after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) withdrew his initial support for each nominee.

After the 2016 election Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley reiterated that he will continue to honor the blue-slip process,” as The Wall Street Journal reported. In his Des Moines Register Op-Ed, Grassley stressed that "For nearly a century, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has brought nominees up for committee consideration only after both home-state senators have signed and returned what's known as a "blue slip." This tradition is designed to encourage outstanding nominees and consensus between the White House and home-state senators. Over the years, Judiciary Committee chairs of both parties have upheld a blue-slip process, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, my immediate predecessor in chairing the committee, who steadfastly honored the tradition even as some in his own party called for its demise. I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it.”

Since the election, bipartisan Judiciary Committee support for the need to continue to require two blue slips includes Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Republican Ben Sasse (NE) who stressed that "longstanding precedent, requires the approval of both home-state senators."

Sens. Feinstein and Harris on need for two home-state Senator blue slips for circuit and district court nominees (Democrat - California) 12/30/16  The blue slip is “an important historical tool that prevents the president from forcing a federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. marshal through the Senate,” and is “designed to ensure nominees are qualified and well-suited to serve their states,” Feinstein said in a statement Friday. Michael Troncoso, co-director of Harris’ Senate transition team, said, “If nominees for judge or U.S. attorney lack appropriate experience or have extreme views, that’s the reason you have a blue slip.”

Sen. Sasse Announces Nebraska Justice and Judicial Nominations Advisory Commission
(Republican - Nebraska) 02/14/17  Sen. Sasse Press Release: "After the White House sends a nomination to the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin its confirmation process which, by longstanding precedent, requires the approval of both home-state senators."

See also 2017 bipartisan home-state Senator agreements, and support for renominating Obama judicial nominees

Senators Cantwell and Murray Reaffirm Bipartisan Choices for Western District Vacancies (Washington) 04/14/17 

Sens. Rubio and Bill Nelson letter asks President Trump to keep judicial picks they sent to Obama (Florida) 03/16/17 

Portman, Brown Request Applications for U.S. District Judgeship Vacancies in Ohio's Southern and Northern Districts (Ohio) 03/13/17 

Senators Casey and Toomey Continue Bipartisan Agreement on District Court Vacancies
(Pennsylvania) 03/10/17 

Sen. Toomey expresses continued support for Susan Paradise Baxter
(Republican - Pennsylvania) 02/28/17 

Sen. Crapo joins Senate Judiciary Committee, hopes to push David Nye renomination and third Idaho federal judgeship (Republican - Idaho) 01/03/17 

 

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