Democrats are abusing a Senate tradition to block Trump's agenda
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In their never-ending attempts to block President Trump’s agenda on each front, liberals have used nearly every trick in the book. Now, they are resorting to abusing arcane Senate traditions to undermine the president. It’s a desperate move by Democrats, and one that may have dire consequences for them in next year’s elections.

Senate Democrats are blocking some of President Trump’s judicial nominees through the use of the little-known blue slip. (How many everyday Americans have ever heard of the blue slip? Not many, to be sure.)

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The blue slip draws its name from the blue-ish colored piece of paper that the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee issues as a courtesy to home-state senators before the committee proceeds on a judicial nominee’s hearings. The blue slip invites the two home-state senators to weigh in on the judicial nominee’s background and experience, as well as any concerns the senators may have.

 

Judicial nominees from states with two Democratic senators may face an uphill confirmation battle if Democrats choose to play petty politics and abuse the blue slip tradition. Take, for example, Justice Joan Larsen, who currently sits on the Michigan Supreme Court and was recently nominated by President Trump for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice Larsen has a sterling (impeccable, even) record. Her record is so impressive, in fact, that she was included on then-candidate Trump’s short list of potential Supreme Court picks.

But those facts are lost on her two home-state senators, Gary Peters and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Democrats to Trump: Ask Forest Service before shrinking monuments MORE, Democrats who appear willing to derail Larsen’s confirmation process through the blue slip. For Sen. Stabenow, this is a familiar tactic. Back in 2003, when Republicans controlled the Senate and George W. Bush was in the White House, she and her Michigan colleague Carl LevinCarl LevinCongress: The sleeping watchdog Congress must not give companies tax reasons to move jobs overseas A lesson on abuse of power by Obama and his Senate allies MORE honed the practice of blue slip obstructionism by submitting blue slips in opposition to five of President Bush’s well-qualified judicial nominees from the state of Michigan.

What Stabenow and her Democratic colleagues have unwittingly done is to turn a cherished tradition on its head. And yes, the tradition of opposing by blocking is cherished in our political system. The practice of blocking bad ideas, policies, and legislation is ingrained in our American institutions — from the Constitution to the Senate rules themselves. Our founders were inspired to create methods for blocking, precisely because they correctly understood that highly efficient, fast-moving government is often a foe of individual liberty, and they sought to create built-in “brakes” to halt bad ideas.

The American people are highly attuned to the difference between the practice of blocking bad ideas and the political sport of obstructionism. The organization I lead, Tea Party Patriots, excels at blocking bad ideas, dangerous pieces of legislation, and policies that threaten individual liberty. But the Democrats’ judicial nominee obstructionism is blocking purely for political revenge. Blocking, for the Democrats, is no longer a technique — it’s an end goal. And based on Senate Democrats’ press releases of late, obstructionism for the mere sake of obstructionism is the main goal driving their agenda.

The blue slip practice dates back to George Washington’s presidency when home-state Georgia Sen. James Gunn opposed Washington’s nominee, Benjamin Fishbourn, for naval officer to the port of Savannah. The Senate deferred to Gunn’s opposition and failed to confirm Fishbourn. In 1917, when another home-state Georgia senator, Thomas Hardwick, opposed the nomination of U.V. Whipple, he made his opposition known with the blue slip, writing, “I object to this appointment — [he] is personally offensive and objectionable to me, and I can not consent to the confirmation of the nominee.”

Modern-day Democrats would do well to take note of the essence of Sen. Hardwick’s now-famous blue slip. Hardwick opposed the nominee — not the president or his agenda. It was a purposeful blue slip objection that contrasts sharply with today’s abusive practice of using the blue slip for political spite.

In a joint statement, Sens. Peters and Stabenow have promised “to listen to public input” about Justice Larsen. They may want to start by listening to the American Bar Association, which gives her its highest rating. Or they could listen to the University of Michigan Law School, which has said she would make an “outstanding federal judge.”

Stabenow, who is up for re-election next year, may also want to listen to the voices of Michigan voters — the same voters who delivered a stunning victory for President Trump last November in deep-blue Michigan. These voters want judicial vacancies filled by supremely qualified justices like Larsen.

Petty obstructionism never polls well, and it fares even worse at the ballot box. Stabenow and other Democrats up for re-election in 2018 may want to ponder that.

Jenny Beth Martin is the president and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.