A Blue Slip—Not a Franken Veto

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Restoring an important Senate courtesy to its rightful purpose.

The hits keep coming for Al Franken. At the same time folks are calling on the Minnesota Democrat to resign after he’s been accused of sexual assault, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is ending a Franken veto over judicial nominees.

Chairman Chuck Grassley said Thursday that he’ll move forward with a confirmation hearing for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras. Mr. Stras’s nomination to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has stalled because of Mr. Franken’s failure to return a “blue slip” signalling that a Senator doesn’t object to the nomination. Republican John Kennedy has likewise not returned his blue slip for Kyle Duncan, a nominee for the Fifth Circuit, but Mr. Kennedy isn’t trying to block a hearing.

The Senate’s blue slip tradition spans a century and is meant to encourage consultation between the White House and Senate on nominees. But Mr. Franken is using the blue slip as an ideological veto.

Mr. Grassley distinguished between nominees for district courts, whose authority is generally limited to one state, and appellate-court nominees, whose jurisdiction might span several states. He implied that he is still inclined to give home-state Senators more say over district nominees. But he made clear he won’t let the blue slip become a substitute for the filibuster, which Democrats eliminated to pack the D.C. Circuit during the Obama years.

The Iowa Republican also noted that only two of the 18 Judiciary Chairmen had allowed a single home-state Senator to stop nominees with blue slips. When Joe Biden chaired the committee, he let President George H.W. Bush know that though a Senator’s decision to withhold a blue slip would weigh heavily in the evaluation of a nominee’s fitness, “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.”

That’s the approach Mr. Grassley is following, and it restores a Senate courtesy to its rightful purpose.

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