Senate Democrats hold blue slips, delay Trump’s federal judicial nominees
July 10, 2017
No Democrat has yet returned a “blue slip” signaling acceptance of President Trump’s federal judicial picks — an ominous sign for Republicans, who fear it signals an upcoming attempt to slow-walk the administration’s plans to reshape the federal judiciary.
“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,” said a Trump administration official who asked not to be identified in order to speak about private communications.
The issue is about to come to a head, as Senate Republicans will soon have to decide whether to proceed with several key circuit court picks over the reticence of home-state Democratic senators.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, has signaled that he may alter adherence to the blue slip policy, which is a tradition giving senators a sort of veto over judges picked from their home states who don’t meet with their approval.
In the past, senators could derail a hearing and vote by not returning a blue slip.
The first tests are likely to come on Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, who was nominated to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who was nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both nominations were announced on May 8, but the justices have yet to have confirmation hearings.
Spokespeople for Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary C. Peters in Michigan and Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota said they are still reviewing the records for both justices. None of them has returned a blue slip for their home-state nominee.
The White House says it has reached out multiple times to the four senators.
Mr. Peters spoke with the administration twice before Justice Larsen’s nomination, and Ms. Stabenow spoke with the administration at least four times, according to the White House.
Mr. Franken talked three times with the Trump administration, and Ms. Klobuchar had five conversations prior to Justice Stras’ nomination, the White House said.