Senate Blue-Slip Bluster

McConnell is right to override Democratic judicial vetoes.


Mitch McConnell at a news conference, Sept. 12.
Mitch McConnell at a news conference, Sept. 12. PHOTO: MICHAEL REYNOLDS/REX/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Hyperventilating is the modern political default, starting with the President of the United States. But Wednesday’s political flap over the Senate’s “blue slip” courtesy for judicial nominees is even phonier than usual.

The tradition—it isn’t a formal rule—has allowed a home-state Senator of either party to signal opposition to a lower-court nominee by refusing to return a sheet of paper known as the blue slip. The tradition was intended to give Senators a chance to flag a particular problem with a nominee that others might not know about, but it was never intended as an ideological pocket veto.

Yet that is how Senate Democrats are using the blue slip this year, led by that paragon of partisanship, Al Franken of Minnesota. He’s refusing to return the blue slip for the highly qualified David Stras, a judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court whom President Trump has nominated for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. This is part of the larger Democratic strategy of delaying nominees for as long as possible to “resist” the Trump Administration and slow down other Senate business. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can see what is going on and he repeated to The Weekly Standard what he has been telling everyone, which is that a blue-slip wasn’t meant to be “an opportunity to blackball.” This caused Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to lecture Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley that he must obey any blue slip to “create bipartisanship and bring people to an agreement.” Mr. Schumer is the same fellow who is subjecting nearly every Trump nominee to 30 hours of floor “debate” no matter the qualifications.

Mr. Schumer is using a bipartisan courtesy for partisan ends, and Mr. McConnell is right to call him on it. As for conservatives who fear Mr. McConnell isn’t moving fast enough: Watch this fall as the confirmations speed up.

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