Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pushed back on comments made by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicating that the top Senate Republican would like to eliminate the last tool Democrats have to block President Trump’s judicial nominees.
“The Senate has fewer and fewer mechanisms that create bipartisanship and bring people to an agreement. The blue slips are one of them,” Schumer said Wednesday in a statement, referring to the Senate tradition that a judicial nominee not move forward until both home state senators return the so-called “blue slip” approving their nomination.
“It’s just a shame that Senator McConnell is willing to abandon it for circuit court judges. We hope that [Judiciary] Chairman [Chuck] Grassley, who has always believed in the traditions of the Senate, will resist Senator McConnell’s request,” Schumer’s statement continued.
In an interview with the Weekly Standard published earlier Wednesday, McConnell said that Republicans going forward will treat blue slips “as simply notification of how you’re going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball.”
Ironically, more than a few of the judiciary vacancies Trump can now fill exist because Republicans under President Obama refused to return blue slips for his nominees — even for nominees they had previously supported.
Technically, it’s up to the leader of the Judiciary Committee — currently Sen. Grassley (R-IA) — to decide whether to honor the blue slip tradition or not. McConnell’s spokesman told TPM in an email that his Weekly Standard comments reflected his “well-known public position on the matter” and that “we have not made any announcements about a Conference or committee position.”
According to the spokesman, Don Stewart, McConnell said in the interview that the position was “his view,” but that part of the quote was not included in the Weekly Standard story.
Grassley told TPM last month, after McConnell made similar comments, that he will decide on a “case by case basis” whether to move forward with a nominee if Democrats have not returned the blue slip. His spokesman did not respond to TPM’s inquiry as to whether that position has changed.
Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from McConnell’s spokesman.