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 demise. I 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.