The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to schedule confirmation hearings for several of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, as Democrats leverage their last remaining procedural weapon against the GOP.
By Senate convention, senators from states where judicial vacancies occur submit an opinion or a “blue slip,” giving a positive or negative evaluation of a nominee named to that vacancy. As a general matter, the Judiciary Committee will not convene a hearing for a nominee until the relevant senators submit their blue slips, effectively giving home-state senators veto power over judicial nominations.
The president named judicial nominees to appeals courts in two states represented by Democratic senators in May — Trump nominated Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to a seat on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen to the 6th Circuit. Both senators from Michigan and Minnesota are Democrats, and have not yet submitted blue slips for these nominees.
Democrats claim that the administration has not consulted with home-state senators during the vetting process, but the White House says that their overtures have been deliberately ignored.
“The administration has been seeking consultation from home-state senators for months — even as senators frequently fail to return our calls, don’t respond to our inquiries and otherwise avoid our constant overtures,” an unnamed administration official told the Washington Times.
A conflict on this point seems unlikely for the moment, as Senate Judiciary must first hold hearings on Christopher Wray’s nomination as FBI Director, and consider the nominations of a slate of judicial nominees to other courts.
GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs Senate Judiciary, signaled he may move forward on the Stras and Larsen nominations without the consent of the relevant senators.
“I think the blue slip is more respected for district court judges historically than it has been for circuit,” Grassley said in May. “It’s much more a White House decision on circuit judges than the district court judges. I mean this is going to be an individual case-by-case decision, but it leads me to say that there’s going to have to be a less strict use or obligation to the blue slip policy for circuit, because that’s the way it’s been.”
The White House has no qualms about ending the blue slip protocol for appeals court nominees.
“Choosing an 8th Circuit nominee in Minnesota shouldn’t take twice as long as it took to build the Empire State Building,” the same official told the Times.
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