The blue slip variations: Grassley speaks

On early Monday morning I wrote about the November 2 memorandum to news media disseminated by the Senate Judiciary Committee Majority. I wrote that the memo would probably not have been disseminated without Senator Grassley’s blessing as chairman of the Judiciary Committee and that the memo read like a backgrounder for reporters explaining a course of action that is about to be taken (and should be).

Later that day Senator Grassley took to the floor of the Senate to make a statement on the “History of the Blue Slip Courtesy for Judicial Nominees” (video below).

In his statement Senator Grassley reiterated the memorandum in his own voice. He decried “the danger of allowing one or two senators to veto a nominee for political or ideological reasons.” Drawing on his own experience as an Iowa Senator with Eighth Circuit nominations, Senator Grassley concluded:

[T]he blue slip isn’t supposed to allow the unilateral veto of a nominee….a senator can’t [properly] use a blue slip to block a nominee simply because he or she doesn’t like the nominee’s politics or ideology.

A senator can’t use a blue slip to block a nominee because it’s not the person the senator would’ve picked. The president gets to nominate judges.

The White House should consult home-state senators and it’s important that they do so in a meaningful way. But the White House may disagree with senators and may determine that a different individual is more suited to serve on the circuit court. So long as there is consultation, the President generally gets to make that call.

So, I won’t let senators abuse the blue slip to block qualified nominees for political or ideological reasons.

As I have noted a time or two before, the unfunniest senator — that would be Al Franken (you can Google it) — has withheld his blue slip to block the nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the Eighth Circuit. Franken’s statement opposing Justice Stras amounts to nothing more than glorified pique. I think that Franken’s statement takes it far beyond the lines of the “blue slip courtesy” Senator Grassley intends to honor.

Justice Stras’s nomination has now been in limbo for over six months. Senator Grassley continues to hold his cards close to his vest, but I read his floor statement in part as A Message To Al that Justice Stras will have his day before the Judiciary Committee.

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