Blue slips are back in the news after Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley refused to turn in their blue slips for Ninth Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds. Last week, in a move that riled Democrats, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for Bounds despite the unreturned blue slips. Outrage over blue slips can be attributed to political posturing rather than a genuine lack of consultation. As we pointed out last year, Senate Democrats are ignoring history.
The blue slip rule is a custom as opposed to a formal rule, and the blue slip tradition has not been followed in recent years. In a letter to President George H. W. Bush, then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) articulated his consultation-based view of the tradition as follows: “The return of a negative blue slip will be a significant factor to be weighed by the committee in its evaluation of a judicial nominee, but it will not preclude consideration of that nominee unless the Administration has not consulted with both home state senators prior to submitting the nomination to the Senate.”
As our op-ed predicted, “If the early signs that Democrats plan to use the blue slip as tool of obstruction turn out to be accurate, then Chairman Grassley will be forced to adopt the Kennedy or Biden standards, neither of which allows the wholesale blocking of nominees. If Grassley chooses one of these two options, he can rest assured that Democrats have previously and unequivocally endorsed its use.”
For more on how the blue slip tradition has evolved from Presidents Wilson to Trump, read this op-ed from CFJ in The Hill.
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