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Friday, August 11, 2017

Their Slip (Blue) Is Showing

Most people have no idea what a "blue slip" is.  Here's a hint:  it's not a piece of clothing.  The blue slip is a form sent to two senators when someone is nominated to be a federal judge.  The home state senators get the form, and it is customary not to proceed with consideration of the nomination until both blue slips are returned to the judiciary committee marked approved.  In other words, if President Trump appoints a new judge to the district court in Pennsylvania, the Senate will not consider the nominee until both senator Casey and Tomey send back approval via the blue slip.  In practice, this is a quiet way for some senators to block judicial appointments.

Blue slips are not required by law.  They are not even part of the Senate rules, but rather are just a tradition.  They did not even exist for the first 140 years of the USA.  Moreover, since this practice first began 100 years ago, it has only been followed part of the time.

The reason to look at blue slips now is that some of the Democrats in the Senate are trying to use this tradition to prevent approval of judges appointed by President Trump.  For example, in Minnesota, the President appointed a judge who is currently on the Minnesota Supreme Court and who is widely perceived to be a first rate jurist.  Senators Klobuchar and Franken, however, are not returning the blue slip so as to delay the approval of yet another Trump nominee.  Since this is not an isolate example, we are quickly getting to the point where the Senate may stop considering the blue slips.

Four years ago, the Senate Democrats overturned centuries of practice when they threw out the ability for there to be a filibuster of judicial nominees.  Now that the Democrats are in the minority, they have lost their ability to stop nominations in that way.  They should not be allowed to use the blue slips to replace the filibuster that they destroyed.

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