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McConnell Eliminates Senate’s "Blue Slip" Tool Used to Block Judicial Nominees

by Countable | 10.11.17

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told the Weekly Standard that a long-standing tradition giving senators the power to blackball judicial nominees to federal courts will be going by the wayside, clearing the path for the Senate to more easily approve the Trump administration’s picks.

The procedural tool — known as a "blue slip" — gave senators who represent the home state of a judicial nominee the power to allow the nomination to move forward by providing the blue slip to the chair of the Judiciary Committee, or block it by failing to return it or offering a negative blue slip.

This gave individual senators significant sway over the fate of judicial nominees from their state even if they were nominated by the opposing party, and senators weren’t shy about using their power. In mid-September Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) refused to return a blue slip related to the nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It’s important to note that blue slips were never a formal part of the Senate’s rules — it was simply a tradition that the Judiciary Committee adopted over the years as it held hearings and committee votes on nominees. And the tradition won’t completely go away, as senators can still return affirmative or negative blue slips to the committee — they’ll just be treated as an indication of how a senator is going to vote instead of effectively giving them the power to stop the nomination.

Tell your senators what you think about the change in the Senate’s "blue slip" policy and share your thoughts in the comments below.

— Eric Revell

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(Photo Credit: RichLegg / iStock)

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