Washington, D.C., October 11, 2017 – In response to reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to force his Senate Judiciary Chairman to cease the practice of honoring home-state senators’ “blue slips” for federal judicial nominees, Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron released the following statement:
“This is sheer hypocrisy on the part of McConnell, who throughout the Obama Administration demanded meaningful consultation between the White House and home-state senators on judicial nominees. The chief instrument in that consultation process was the blue slip. Not only is McConnell acting with utter scorn for bipartisan Senate tradition, he is apparently poised to make a hypocrite of his own Senate Judiciary Chairman, who is on record saying he will absolutely honor the blue slip in his committee. What’s clear is that Republicans are unable to govern or legislate, so instead they are bending and breaking the rules to pack the courts with right-wing ideologues who will prop up their agenda. It’s imperative that Senate Democrats use all the tools at their disposal to prevent this attack on our rights and our courts.”
It is important to note:
- In 2015, now-Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.