Washington, D.C., September 14 – In response to reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has advocated ending the hundred-year-old tradition whereby both home-state senators must return a so-called “blue slip” on a judicial nominee before that nominee is considered by the Senate, AFJ President Nan Aron released the following statement:
“Is there a single longstanding rule or norm that Senator McConnell is not committed to shattering in aid of Donald Trump? For eight years under President Obama, Senator McConnell and the Republicans vigilantly insisted on meaningful consultation between the White House and home-state senators on judicial nominees, and they used the blue slip to block 18 Obama nominees. It is extraordinarily rich and shameful that Senator McConnell now calls the very practice he used ‘blackballing’ a nominee, and that the minute President Obama is no longer President he wants to change the rules to cede more power to President Trump at the expense of senators of both parties. It’s up to Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley to resist this shameless about-face by leadership and show he is a person of principle who will stand by what he said in 2015: that he will respect and preserve the blue slip process.”
In 2015, Grassley bylined an op-ed in the Des Moines Register that included the following: “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.”
It is important to note:
- According to the Congressional Research Service, in 100 years, there have been only three exceptions to the practice that both home state senators must return a positive blue slip for a judicial nominee to be confirmed, the most recent in 1989. Moreover, a judge has never been confirmed over the objections of both home-state senators.
- During the Obama Administration, Republicans blocked 18 judicial nominees through blue slips. During the Obama Administration, there were zero exceptions to the rule that both home state senators must approve a judicial nominee. As Senator Hatch noted in 2014, diminishing this 100-year old tradition would, “sweep aside the last remaining check on the president’s judicial appointment power.” He added, “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.”
- By not returning his blue slip, Senator McConnell himself killed the nomination of Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes because the White House did not accept his preferred recommendation for the vacancy. Apparently, Mitch McConnell believes he is entitled to exercise one right, and the Democrats another.