On blue slips, Grassley pulls the trigger

Yesterday was a bad day for Al Franken. In the morning Leeann Tweeden posted the photograph of the sexual assault committed by Franken on her along with the compelling first-person account of her mistreatment by Franken. That was a shot heard round the world. Then in the afternoon Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced that he would not let Franken’s withheld blue slip block the nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the Eighth Circuit or let Senator Kennedy’s withheld blue slip block the nomination of Kyle Duncan to the Fifth Circuit.

Senator Grassley took to the floor of the Senate to explain his disposition of “the blue slip courtesy” and his decision to schedule a committee hearing on the nominations of Stras and Duncan (text of statement here, video below). The Hill reported on Senator Grassley’s statement here.

Senator Grassley waited a long time to announce his intentions. The Stras nomination has been pending since May 8. The time Justice Stras has spent in limbo must have been an ordeal. It’s not right.

In the Frankensense, however, Senator Grassley’s timing couldn’t have been better. The idea that Senator Franken could veto an appellate court nominee with Stras’s character and record looked especially ludicrous yesterday afternoon.

Handling President Trump’s appellate court nominations, Senator Grassley put those nominees for whom there was no blue-slip issue first in line for committee hearings. Yesterday the time arrived for Senator Grassley’s decision on the treatment of the blue slips withheld in the Stras and Duncan nominations.

Senator Grassley differentiated between his intended treatment of blue slips in the case of federal appellate judges and federal district court judges. Rejecting Franken’s disapproval of Justice Stras, he also reviewed Justice Stras’s impressive professional record — in practice, in teaching, and on the Minnesota Supreme Court — in detail.

Senator Grassley’s announcement yesterday was foreshadowed by the committee majority’s November 2 memorandum on blue slips and on Senator Grassley’s floor statement earlier this week, which I discussed, respectively, here and here. Those two posts read the tea leaves right.

I know and greatly admire Justice Stras. Granted a committee hearing, he now has the opportunity to win confirmation, which should take place in due course. Both the Stras and Duncan hearings are scheduled for November 29.

Justice Stras will make a great Eighth Circuit judge. Senator Grassley did the right thing denying Franken veto power over the nomination of Justice Stras to the Eighth Circuit.

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