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The Guardians of Democracy

Senate Republicans Likely To Change Custom That Allows Democrats To Block Judicial Choices


Senate Republicans Likely To Change Custom That Allows Democrats To Block Judicial Choices

First Senate Republicans changed the chamber’s filibuster rule in April to confirm Neil M. Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice and now they are threatening to change a custom that allows Democratic senators to block some judicial choices from their states, in an effort to speed along a conservative transformation of the federal judiciary.

The Washington Post added:

“Leaders are considering a significant change to the Senate’s “blue slip” practice, which holds that judicial nominations will not proceed unless the nominee’s home-state senators signal their consent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans say they would make the change if Democrats throw up blanket opposition to President Trump’s nominees.

Adherence to the custom has waxed and waned, depending on the views of Senate leaders. But the rule was strictly observed during the Obama administration, and GOP opposition to President Barack Obama’s nominees partly explains why Trump entered office with more than 120 judicial vacancies to fill.

Removing the blue-slip obstacle would make it much easier for Trump’s choices to be confirmed. Although Trump and Senate Republicans have clashed early in his presidency, they agree on the importance of putting conservatives on the federal bench.”

“Eliminating the blue slip is essentially a move to end cooperation between the executive and legislative branch on judicial nominees, allowing nominees to be hand-picked by right-wing groups,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, wrote in a memo this week.

Christopher Kang, who advised Obama on judicial nominations, said 17 of the president’s picks did not receive hearings for that reason, killing the nominations.

“There’s no question that the blue-slip process greatly influenced the way President Obama chose nominees and whether they received hearings,” Kang said.

Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institution scholar who follows judicial nominations, said allegiance is situational.

“All of a sudden, Republicans are discovering the blue-slip process can be abused, when in fact they’ve been abusing them to get all of these vacancies for Trump to fill,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted Republicans for departing from tradition, saying in a statement that “The Constitution requires the advice and consent of the Senate, not right wing interest groups, on the president’s judicial nominees.”

Trump has nominated 11 judges, and two of them are from states represented in the Senate by Democrats and therefore subject to the blue-slip process: Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David R. Stras and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan L. Larsen.

Michigan’s Democratic senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, said they were “informed” of Trump’s intention to nominate Larsen and have made no judgment about her. “I will continue to listen to public input and consult with Michigan’s legal community to ensure that our state is served by highly qualified, fair and impartial judges that put the people of Michigan first,” Stabenow said in a statement.

Minnesota’s Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, also have been noncommittal about Stras.

“It’s customary that the blue-slip process applies equally to both district and circuit court nominees — and Republicans certainly operated that way during the Obama administration,” Franken said, adding, “The committee should continue this custom and not change it simply because there’s a new president in the White House.”


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