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PFAW Response to McConnell Comments on Changing Blue Slip Process

12 October 2017

McConnell discussed the change in an interview with the Weekly Standard that was noted by several publications, including Politico and the Washington Post.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the blue-slip tradition won't be allowed to deny judicial nominees a hearing and vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

McConnell made similar comments to The New York Times last month, saying: "My personal view is that the blue slip, with regard to circuit court appointments, ought to simply be a notification of how you're going to vote".

In that piece (with just the sort of headline McConnell's team was looking for amid accusations from conservatives that he wasn't being aggressive enough: "Mitch McConnell Goes to the Mattresses for Trump's Judicial Nominees"), McConnell said he would begin prioritizing consideration of judicial nominees over executive nominees.

Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children's health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.) said he doesn't believe a Trump pick should be blocked just because a blue slip isn't returned. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.).

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The blue-slip practice requires consent from home state senators before the Senate Judiciary Committee proceeds with a federal judicial nomination.

Grassley has been careful not to tip his hand on the looming fight. But McConnell vowed to set aside time for these debates.

"The Senate has fewer and fewer mechanisms that create bipartisanship and bring people to an agreement".

But what's most puzzling about McConnell's announcement is that he, and not Chuck Grassley, is making it. Grassley has been a longtime supporter of blue slips.

He added that "we hope that Chairman Grassley, who has always believed in the traditions of the Senate, will resist Senator McConnell's request". McConnell's vocal push to change the blue slip could inoculate from some of that criticism. The blue slips are one of them.

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Since Trump was inaugurated, judicial vacancies have grown from 106 to 149.

Grassley "will determine how to apply the blue slip courtesy for federal judicial nominees, as has always been the practice", said Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy.

"Now that a Republican is in the White House, Senator McConnell is trying to turn the Judiciary Committee into a rubber stamp for President Trump", said former Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. By basically turning over his judicial nominating process to hard-core ideologues, Donald Trump has gone a long way toward overcoming the mistrust of Republican presidents among those whose primary focus is to reverse federal court precedents legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage, and allowing the expansion of the federal government at the expense of property owners.

Democrats have few other tools to slow down or block a judicial nominee. That's because, though nominees only need a simple majority to be confirmed, Democrats can still draw out the process for each vote to a crawl. Perhaps the Judiciary Committee chairman is deferring to his Leader so that the Kentuckian can get credit for clearing the way for Trump's nominees; he could certainly use some political capital among the conservatives who are more often than not calling for his head.

So far the Judiciary Committee has held hearings for 24 of Trump's nominees, with a hearing for an additional five scheduled next week. Grassley has called for the Senate to skip recesses (in fact, senators are away this week) until the backlog is resolved.

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PFAW Response to McConnell Comments on Changing Blue Slip Process