The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm an appellate court pick for President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE despite one of the nominee's home-state senators not returning a blue slip.
Senators voted 56-42 on David Stras's nomination to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, making him the first Trump nominee to be confirmed despite a missing blue slip.
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.
But how strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the Judiciary Committee chairman — in this case, Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (R-Iowa) — and enforcement has fluctuated depending on who controls the panel.
Grassley sparked a political firestorm when he announced late last year that he would move forward with Stras even though then-Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAl Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE (D-Minn.) refused to return his blue slip on Stras's nomination. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Klobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats MORE (D-Minn.) returned her blue slip.
The Alliance for Justice noted that Stras is the first circuit court judge to be confirmed despite a missing blue slip in more than 80 years.
Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Democratic leaders vow climate action amid divide Manchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill On The Money — The Democratic divide on taxes MORE (D-Minn.), Franken's successor, voted against Stras's nomination.
Democrats have repeatedly ripped Grassley for moving forward with Trump's judicial picks despite opposition from home-state senators.
"Democratic and Republican chairs have stuck to the blue slip rule, despite the tensions in this body. So this is a major step back — another way that the majority is slowly and inexorably gnawing away at the way this body works and making it more and more and more like the House of Representatives," said Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill Centrist state lawmaker enters Ohio GOP Senate primary Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (D-N.Y.).
Grassley announced in November that he had scheduled a hearing on Stras and Kyle Duncan, nominated to serve on the 5th Circuit. Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) did not return a positive blue slip for Duncan.
Both Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE (R-Ky.) praised Stras this week.
"I am convinced Justice Stras will rule fairly and impartially, finding and applying the law as written, not legislating from the bench," Grassley said.
– Lydia Wheeler contributed