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Senate's blue-slip bounce: End this tradition

| Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Democrat senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., left, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Al Franken, D-Minn., conduct a hearing hosted by the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee earlier this year. (AP Photo)
Democrat senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., left, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Al Franken, D-Minn., conduct a hearing hosted by the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee earlier this year. (AP Photo)

It's a U.S. Senate tradition without constitutional basis that flies in the faces of the Framers: the so-called “blue-slip” process on judicial nominees. Reportedly dating back to 1917, the process effectively gives senators a thumbs up (or thumbs down) on judicial nominees from their home state.

And although a senator refusing to turn in his or her blue slip to the Senate Judiciary Committee does not legally restrict a judicial nominee, it essentially carries the same clout as a Roman emperor's thumb.

Most recently, the blue-slip bounce has been employed by Democrat Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who says he won't return his slip on President Trump's nominee for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras. Apparently Justice Stras is too conservative for Mr. Franken's liking.

This indefensible blue-slip process gives senators veto authority over judicial nominees. Glenn Sugameli, an expert on judicial nominations, tells Business Insider that “no circuit court nominees have been confirmed over the objection of one (or two) home state senators — including under Obama.” Both Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairmen, reportedly blocked every nominee from President Obama who failed to obtain both blue slips.

And the supporters of blue slips call this “bipartisanship”? No, it's an aberration of the Senate's confirmation role. Those blue slips should be permanently filed where they belong: in the garbage.

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