In Minnesota we have four vacancies to fill for high federal offices: the United States Attorney, the United States Marshal and two federal district court judges. President Trump has nominated Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, but his nomination has been blocked from consideration in the Senate so far by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Approximately no one in Minnesota opposes Justice Stras’s nomination to the Eighth Circuit. He is widely admired and respected.
So what gives with Senator Klobuchar? I understand that she is “negotiating” with the White House. I understand that she offers to stand down on Justice Stras in exchange for getting her way on one or more of the four vacancies. I previously reported that Klobuchar supports Minneapolis attorney Joe Dixon for United States Attorney. I doubt that the Trump White House can abide a partisan Democratic United States Attorney for Minnesota and I am certain it should not do so. Neither Klobuchar nor Dixon responded to my request for comment when I sought it earlier this month.
As I say, we have four high offices to be filled by presidential appointment subject to Senate confirmation. I understand that Senator Klobuchar seeks to have her say on all of them in exchange for acceding to the Senate’s consideration of Justice Stras. However, I may be wrong about that. On August 15 I sought her comment; her spokesman failed to respond.
There is a story here. Unless I am missing something, the Star Tribune has gone silent. By custom, the Star Tribune serves as the public relations arm of the permanent Klobuchar campaign. If Senator Klobuchar were talking, the Star Tribune would amicably publicize whatever she had to say. But she’s not talking.
Early yesterday evening I wrote the spokesman for Senator Klobuchar from whom I have heard in the past: “I understand that Al Franken has returned his blue slip on Justice Stras. As I wrote you previously, I understand that Senator Klobuchar is holding hers and still ‘negotiating’ with the White House over vacancies including the US Attorney. Would you please comment tonight or let me know if I should direct my inquiry to Senator Klobuchar elsewhere?” As of this morning I have received no comment.
Senator Klobuchar’s power to block Justice Stras’s nomination derives from Senate Judiciary Committee custom and from her status as Justice Stras’s home state Senator. However, the Eighth Circuit vacancy does not belong to Minnesota. It could go to a lawyer from any state in the Eighth Circuit. Among the states in the Eighth Circuit are Arkansas and Iowa and South Dakota — each of which has two Republican senators. Indeed, Senator Grassley is not only from Iowa, he serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If the time were to come when the White House chose a path of less resistance, it would be to the detriment of Minnesota and Senator Klobuchar would have to answer for it. In the meantime, someone other than me should be asking her about it.
CORRECTION: I erred in stating that Minnesota Senator Al Franken had returned his blue slip on Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, nominated by President Trump to the United States Court of Appeals to the Eighth Circuit. Neither Senator Klobuchar nor Senator Franken has returned a blue slip on Justice Stras. They are both therefore blocking his consideration by the Senate under the custom that Senator Grassley is following as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. More here.