In my post on Fred Barnes’s scoop on Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s declaration on the evanescence of the the senatorial blue slip, I asked for the ocular proof. Now Politico reports that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley may have a wrinkle or two to add to Senator McConnell’s declaration:
Grassley has so far been reluctant to end the blue-slip tradition, even as past judiciary panel chairmen, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), have ignored blue slips for circuit court nominees. However, Grassley's immediate predecessor as chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), abided by the blue-slip tradition during his six years leading the panel under former President Barack Obama. That allowed Republicans to block more than a dozen nominees to the bench. "Sen. Grassley has said that he expects senators and the president to continue engaging in consultation when selecting judicial nominees, and that, as in the past, any abuses of the courtesy would be addressed on a case-by-case basis," Foy said. "He has also said on many occasions that the full Senate should dedicate more time to considering nominees that have already been reported out of the Judiciary Committee."
The Washington Post covers the same ground here. The Post also quotes Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy explaining that Senator Grassley “will determine how to apply the blue slip courtesy for federal judicial nominees, as has always been the practice,” and would address “abuses” of the blue slip process “on a case-by-case basis.”
These stories seem to me to render Senator McConnell’s declaration to Fred Barnes inoperative as reported. We must await further developments for something definitive (“the ocular proof”) or additional explanation by Senator McConnell.
I cannot read Foy’s quoted statement, however, without thinking that the use of the blue slip to block the the Stras nomination represents a “case” of “abuse” by Minnesota’s own Al Franken. Justice Stras’s nomination is opposed by virtually no one and Senator Franken has failed to articulate any serious rationale for his own opposition to Stras. As for the other possible cases, events will have to illuminate what is happening here.