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.”