Dem senator won't return 'blue slip' for two Trump court picks
© Greg Nash

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s GOP feuds dominate ahead of midterms Dustbin 2020: The best Dems who surely won’t get the nomination Vulnerable Dems side with Warren in battle over consumer bureau MORE (D-Ohio) on Friday said he will not sign off on two of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE's judicial picks, escalating a long-simmering fight over nominations in the Senate. 

Brown said he will oppose the nominations of Chad Readler and Eric Murphy to serve on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“I cannot support nominees who have actively worked to strip Ohioans of their rights. Special interests already have armies of lobbyists and lawyers on their side, they don’t need judges in their pockets," Brown said in a statement.

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Because Brown is the home state senator for both Readler and Murphy he will receive "blue slips" allowing him to indicate whether he supports the nominations. 

Jennifer Donohue, a spokeswoman for Brown, said that while the senator has not yet received the blue slips he does not plan to return them for either nominee. 

That will force Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFive things to know about Bruce Ohr, the DOJ official under fire from Trump Democrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (R-Iowa) to decide if he will move forward with the nominations in the Judiciary Committee despite Brown's objections. 

The "blue slip" rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return a sheet of paper, the “blue slip,” to the Judiciary Committee.

But how strictly the precedent is followed is decided by the Judiciary Committee chairman — in this case, Grassley — and enforcement has varied over the years.

Donohue added that Brown "made very clear" to the White House that he couldn't support Readler or Murphy after meeting with them. 

"Senator Brown actively tried to work with the White House and offered alternative choices — including respected conservative lawyers. He remains willing to work with the White House on alternative candidates that he could support," she said.

Two of Trump's circuit court nominees have previously been confirmed by the Senate despite one of their home-state senators not returning a blue slip. 

Michael Brenna was confirmed to be a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last month despite objections from Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinTrump touts GOP election wins: ‘We have the team we want’ The Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries MORE (D-Wis.), and David Stras was confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in January.

Then-Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart Franken#BelieveAllWomen, in the Ellison era, looks more like #BelieveTheConvenientWomen The Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries MORE (D-Minn.) refused to return his blue slip on Stras's nomination. Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithOvernight Health Care: Senate takes up massive HHS spending bill next week | Companies see no sign of drugmakers cutting prices, despite Trump claims | Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit Companies report no signs of drugmakers cutting prices, despite Trump pledge Election Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' MORE (D-Minn.), Franken's successor, voted against Stras's nomination.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also advanced Ryan Bounds's nomination this week to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, despite the opposition of both home-state  Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyBipartisanship alive and well, protecting critical infrastructure Overnight Defense: Senate sends 7B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support Dem strategist: It's 'far-left thinking' to call for Nielsen's resignation MORE (Ore.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenGroup files lawsuit to force Georgia to adopt paper ballots Treasury releases proposed rules on major part of Trump tax law Rubio slams Google over plans to unveil censored Chinese search engine MORE (Ore.).

Republicans are confirming Trump's circuit court nominees at a record pace. They are poised to confirm more appeals court picks for Trump during his first two years than other recent presidents got in the same time period. 

Grassley has defended his tactics, saying he will move forward with a circuit court pick when he feels like senators are trying to use the blue slip to obstruct Trump's nominees. 

"First, it is completely false that I have 'done away' with the blue-slip courtesy. My blue-slip policy is the same as all but two of my 18 predecessors," Grassley said last month.