blue slips

  • January 24, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Caroline Fredrickson, ACS President

    Leading up to the federal government shutdown, the judicial nominations process further broke down.

    For the second time, Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, advanced a nominee without support from a home-state Senator. He scheduled a confirmation hearing on Jan. 24 for Michael Brennan, who President Trump nominated to a seat on the 7th Circuit Court without even consulting with the home-state Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

    Traditionally, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee would only plan hearings for nominees who have the support of both of their home-state Senators. These two Senators turn in a blue sheet of paper, known as a blue slip, to the Chair as an indication of their approval for a candidate. With few previous exceptions, the Committee holds hearings for judicial nominees with blue slips.

  • January 24, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Christopher Kang, ACS Board member and Former Deputy Counsel to President Obama

    The Senate runs on trust.

    Senator Patrick Leahy, as the Senate’s most senior member, knows this better than anyone. So last June, I took heart when he said, with respect to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and blue slips on judicial nominations:

    “He told me he was going to follow the same procedures as chairman. And I take him at his word.... I’ve known him for over 30 years. He’s never broken his word to me.

    Last October, Senator Leahy reiterated, “Chairman Grassley has told me he will respect the blue slip tradition, just as I did. I trust him to keep his word.”

    This wasn’t just Chairman Grassley’s word in a private conversation among Committee leaders. In 2015, Chairman Grassley wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register, stating:

    “For nearly a century, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has brought nominees up for committee consideration only after both home-state senators have signed and returned what’s known as a “blue slip.” This tradition is designed to encourage outstanding nominees and consensus between the White House and home-state senators. Over the years, Judiciary Committee chairs of both parties have upheld a blue-slip process, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, my immediate predecessor in chairing the committee, who steadfastly honored the tradition even as some in his own party called for its demiseI appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it.

    And while Chairman Grassley did enforce blue slips during the Obama Administration—preventing 9 Obama judicial nominees from receiving a hearing—last November, he broke his word.

  • December 7, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

    As the longest-serving member of the United States Senate and a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I feel obligated to speak up about the steady erosion of the Judiciary Committee’s norms and traditions. I am deeply troubled that Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has decided to reverse his blue slip policy.  

    The “blue slip” is a century-old Senate tradition that allows senators the courtesy of approving a nominee to the federal bench in their home state. There will surely be an ongoing discussion about the history of the blue slip tradition over the years.  Not all chairmen have adhered to the tradition in the same way. But one thing is beyond dispute: Casting aside blue slips based on how the partisan winds blow will damage the integrity of the Judiciary Committee’s judicial confirmation process.

    When I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, not a single judicial nominee received a hearing without first receiving both home state senators’ positive blue slips.  Regardless of who was in the Oval Office, I defended blue slips because I firmly believe in their constitutional importance—to give meaning to the constitutional requirement of “advice and consent.” 

  • November 17, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way

    *This piece was originally posted by People For the American Way

    Chuck Grassley wrote this about blue slips in the Des Moines Register in 2015:

    For nearly a century, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has brought nominees up for committee consideration only after both home-state senators have signed and returned what’s known as a “blue slip.” This tradition is designed to encourage outstanding nominees and consensus between the White House and home-state senators. Over the years, Judiciary Committee chairs of both parties have upheld a blue-slip process, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, my immediate predecessor in chairing the committee, who steadfastly honored the tradition even as some in his own party called for its demise. I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it.

    It turns out that only applies to a Democratic president’s nominees. On Thursday, Politico reported that Chuck Grassley is ditching the longstanding Senate blue slip policy and will be holding a hearing for David Stras, even though Stras does not have the support of both of his home state senators. Grassley laid out his justification for this seismic shift in policy in an op-ed in The Hill yesterday. An earlier PFAW post explained how Grassley’s comparison to the 2013 filibuster rules change made no sense. But that’s just one of the many holes in his argument.

  • September 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Chris Kang, ACS Board member and former Deputy Counsel to President Obama

    *This piece originally ran on Huffington Post

    As President Trump seeks to dramatically pack the judiciary with conservative, ideological judges, attention has turned to blue slips—little blue pieces of paper that home-state Senators have returned for a hundred years and allow judicial nominees to proceed to confirmation. Here is what you need to know about them: