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

Blue Slips

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.

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's latest assertion on blue slips, 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then-Chairman Leahy refused to proceed even after Obama Tenth Circuit nominee Steve Six's blue slip was belatedly withdrawn after his Judiciary Committee hearing, and blocked a hearing for Elissa Cadish (D. Nev.)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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