President Trump is eager to put his conservative imprint on the federal judiciary, but an impediment remains.
Though the Senate has virtually eliminated the ability of the minority party to block appointments to the bench from the Supreme Court on down, individual senators can still thwart nominees from their home states by refusing to sign off on a form popularly known for its color — the blue slip.
Now, with some Democrats refusing to consent as the Trump administration moves to fill scores of judicial vacancies, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, is for the first time publicly advocating that the blue slip be made strictly advisory when it comes to appeals court nominees — the most powerful judges after those on the Supreme Court.
“My personal view is that the blue slip, with regard to circuit court appointments, ought to simply be a notification of how you’re going to vote, not the opportunity to blackball,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview with The New York Times for “The New Washington” podcast. He said he favored retaining the blue slip authority for lower-level district court judges.
With the conflict escalating, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, has requested a meeting with Mr. McConnell and the top Republican and Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee to dissuade Republicans from weakening the blue slip.
“Getting rid of the blue slip would be a mistake,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview. He said he would argue to Mr. McConnell and Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that since majority control of the Senate has been in flux in recent years, members of both parties should remember that they could find themselves back in the minority.
“Preserving some of the minority’s power in the Senate has broad support because every one of us knows we’re probably going to be in some of each,” Mr. Schumer said.
The rising tension over the blue slip is just the latest clash in the long-running partisan war over lifetime judicial appointments — among the most important spoils of any administration. Long after an individual president is gone, judges placed on the bench are ruling in major federal cases.
You can read the rest at the New York Times.