Democrats Try to Block Trump’s Judicial Nominees with Blue Slips

Donald Trump
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC – Democrats are trying to resurrect a way to block President Trump’s judicial nominees with “blue slips” as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares for a hearing Wednesday on the nomination of Ryan Bounds to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Bounds is a federal prosecutor who clerked for Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain on the Ninth Circuit, a highly respected Ronald Reagan appointee, who took senior status after the 2016 election to semi-retire. In 2017, President Trump nominated Bounds to fill O’Scannlain’s seat on the San Francisco-based court.

This seat is traditionally regarded as an Oregon seat, but both of Oregon’s senators now oppose Bounds after previously supporting him. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, are refusing to turn in their “blue slips,” a blue piece of paper in which home-state senators tell committee chairmen if they approve of the Judiciary Committee’s holding a hearing on a judicial nominee.

Blue slips are a courtesy extended by committee chairmen. They have not historically been treated as a one-man veto of a nomination. When Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) Democrats started using blue slips in that fashion in 2017, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced he would not let the courtesy be abused to obstruct the Senate’s duty to consider and confirm judicial nominees.

Nonetheless, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) tweeted on Monday, “Disappointed to see that Chairman Chuck Grassley plans to hold a hearing for a judicial nominee to the 9th Circuit from Oregon without the consent of both home-state Senators. This has never been done before and should not happen now.”

“That’s not true,” the Senate Judiciary Committee responded by Twitter. “As recently as 2003 and 2004, the Committee held hearings and votes for five circuit court nominees without a positive blue slip for either home state senator.”

The committee goes on to prove Hirono’s statement false by schooling the junior senator, tweeting, “Here’s some more history of the slip,” linking to a report.

“Chairman Grassley will not let the blue slip courtesy be abused for political/ideological reasons, especially for circuit court nominees, which cover multiple states,” the committee said in a second tweet. “This is consistent w/ the practice of nearly every previous chairman, including Sens. Joe Biden & Ted Kennedy.”

As judicial expert Ed Whelan points out at National Review, Wyden and Merkley have an advisory committee from which they choose their recommendations for the White House for federal judgeships in Oregon. The senators sent a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn naming four of their committee’s recommendations for a seat on the Ninth Circuit. One of those names is – you guessed it – Steven Bounds.

There are now eight vacancies on the oversized Ninth Circuit, which is roughly twice the size of the typical federal appellate court. Bounds is a conservative whom Oregon’s Democrat senators originally told the White House was one of their recommendations.

But now that Democrats have learned how conservative he is, they are trying to resurrect the blue slip process in a partisan obstruction tactic to block Trump’s nominees to the Ninth Circuit. Chairman Grassley is expected to hold firm to his commitment not to allow this unprecedented obstruction to prevent the Senate from confirming judicial picks.

Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.

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