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'Blue-slip' rule at center of Senate fight over Trump judicial nominees

12 October 2017, 07:29 | Taylor George

Mitch McConnell. Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken a lot of heat from conservatives for moving too slowly and ineptly on the Trump agenda, and for being a stodgy, Establishment figure.

Senators traded rhetorical shots on Wednesday after tensions over the issue - which have been simmering for months - appeared to spill over.

The Kentucky Republican told The Weekly Standard that going forward, the lack of notice will be seen, "as simply notification of how you're going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball".

These stories seem to me to render Senator McConnell's declaration to Fred Barnes inoperative as reported. "The chairman of the Judiciary Committee will determine how to apply the blue-slip courtesy for federal judicial nominees, as has always been the practice", a Grassley spokesman said, pointedly, on Wednesday. Al Franken's, D-Minn., declaration that he would not return a blue slip for Minnesota Supreme Court Judge David Stras to join the bench of the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, and Oregon Democratic Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.).

"The Senate has fewer and fewer mechanisms that create bipartisanship and bring people to an agreement".

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The thing is: Even if McConnell wants to get rid of blue slips, it's not really up to him. Blue slips amount to giving a single senator veto power over a president's court pick. His refusal to return a so-called "blue slip" on Stras has effectively scuttled the nomination under Senate rules.

He added that "we hope that Chairman Grassley, who has always believed in the traditions of the Senate, will resist Senator McConnell's request". The White House has been working closely with the right-leaning Federalist Society to pick his appeals court nominees, many of whom have been young, conservative, and opposed to LGBTQ rights and abortion rights. The criticism has also overlooked McConnell's crucial role in the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch, a key to preserving a balanced and perhaps - at some point - a conservative-tilting Supreme Court. By basically turning over his judicial nominating process to hard-core ideologues, Donald Trump has gone a long way toward overcoming the mistrust of Republican presidents among those whose primary focus is to reverse federal court precedents legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage, and allowing the expansion of the federal government at the expense of property owners.

President Trump has hundreds of nominees for top administration positions awaiting confirmation, some of which have implications for national security. "They are wrong and we can not overstate the frustration and growing concern with the Republican Senate leadership for its failure during this entire year to do its work".

McConnell won't change the 30-hour debate rule, Barnes reports, which Democrats used to great effect on Trump's earlier Cabinet appointee confirmations to gum up the works. He could be trying, somewhat clumsily, to have it both ways: to insist in the press that he's pushing for a more aggressive approach on nominees while maintaining a more nuanced position within his caucus. The judiciary committee is run by Senator Grassley, and it's up to him to decide who gets a hearing.

But what's most puzzling about McConnell's announcement is that he, and not Chuck Grassley, is making it. "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.



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