Senate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick

Senate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick
© Greg Nash
Senate Democrats held the floor on Tuesday night to protest the decision by GOP leadership to schedule a vote on a controversial circuit court nominee over the objection of both home-state senators. 
The Senate is expected to vote on Ryan Bounds's nomination to serve as an appeals judge on the 9th Circuit this week. 
But Democrats are blasting the decision to bring up the nomination, arguing Republicans are trashing Senate tradition by scheduling a vote despite opposition from 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.). 
"This precedent shows that no principle is safe and no norm is inviolate in the right-wing fringe's campaign to remake the federal judiciary and to remake it in the image of the far-right in this country," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said from the Senate floor. 
Wyden added that Republicans have "changed the rules of the game" and marked the end of the blue-slip precedent. 
"This is lights out! Lights out for a process that ensured fairness for each senator," he said. 
Democrats held the floor for roughly three hours. In addition to Wyden, Schumer, Merkley and Blumenthal, Democratic Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Defense: Officials make show of force on election security | Dems want probe into Air Force One tours | Pentagon believes Korean War remains 'consistent' with Americans Dems call for investigation of Trump Air Force One tours Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press MORE (R.I.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Tina Smith defeats former Bush ethics lawyer in Minnesota Dem primary Live results: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut hold primaries MORE (Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money: Turkey slaps more tariffs on US goods | Businesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill | Senate turns to toughest 'minibus' yet Warren introduces Accountable Capitalism Act Lewandowski says Bloomberg would be 'very competitive' against Trump in 2020 MORE (Mass.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyTop Koch official fires back at critics: We are not an 'appendage' of the GOP Dem senator: Media should stop covering Trump rallies like they're breaking news The Hill's Morning Report: Trump tries to rescue Ohio House seat as GOP midterm fears grow MORE Jr. (Pa.) spoke on the Senate floor. 

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, known as a blue slip, to the Judiciary Committee. 

How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the Judiciary Committee chairman. Enforcement has fluctuated depending on who controls the panel.
So far the Senate has confirmed two nominees where one senator did not return a blue slip since the start of the Trump administration. But Bounds would be the first appeals court nominee to be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Congress even though neither home-state senator returned their blue slip.
Democrats noted on Tuesday night that he would also be the first appeals court nominee in the history of the blue slip to be confirmed over the objection of both home-state senators. 
"I am deeply concerned that the 9th Circuit nominee now on the Senate floor will be receiving a vote despite not having a blue slip from either home-state senator. ... We have said there should be a blue slip. There is no blue slip in this case," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. 
She added that Bounds "will be the first judge in history to be appointed to the federal bench without a blue slip from either senator from his home state." 
Republicans have worked to confirm Trump's picks for the appeals court at a record pace. They're expected to set a new record this week for the number of circuit court nominees confirmed during a president's first two years. 
Democrats warned on Tuesday night that the move by Republicans would guarantee that they would not be able to block circuit court nominees from their own states when Democrats are back in the majority.  
"When the day comes when we have a Democratic president ... Republicans are going to regret that they threw their own blue-slip rights away," Whitehouse said. 
Merkley added that Republicans shouldn't "expect consultation from any future president when you happen to be in the minority." 
Republicans have defended moving forward with the nominations, arguing Democrats were trying to use the blue slip to block Trump's appeals nominees. 
They are also quick to argue that the decision by Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate returns to work on toughest 'minibus' yet GOP senator: Trump is ‘the only one in the government’ not paying attention to Russian threat to midterms Hillicon Valley: 'QAnon' conspiracy theory jumps to primetime | Senate Intel broadens look into social media manipulation | Senate rejects push for more election security funds | Reddit reveals hack MORE (D-Vt.), the former Judiciary Committee chairman during part of the Obama administration, to not move forward with a nomination if a home-state senator did not return a blue slip was an exception to how a blue slip has traditionally been used. 
But every GOP senator sent a letter to Obama in 2009 warning that if they weren’t consulted, and didn’t approve of, nominees from their home states they wouldn't let them move forward.