Senate confirms Trump nominee despite missing 'blue slip'
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The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm an appellate court pick for President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Gillum and DeSantis’s first debate GOP warns economy will tank if Dems win Gorbachev calls Trump's withdrawal from arms treaty 'a mistake' 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.

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But how strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the Judiciary Committee chairman — in this case, Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October 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 FrankenGOP lawmaker once belittled sexual harassment: 'How traumatizing was it?' Meet the man poised to battle Dems from the White House Minnesota GOP Senate candidate compared Michelle Obama to a chimp in Facebook post MORE (D-Minn.) refused to return his blue slip on Stras's nomination. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharIs there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas Clusters of polio-like illness in the US not a cause for panic 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 SmithMinnesota GOP Senate candidate compared Michelle Obama to a chimp in Facebook post Minnesota Dems worry about Ellison allegations as state AG race tightens Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerManchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' 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 McConnellEx-lawmaker urges Americans to publicly confront officials Manchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Democrats slide in battle for Senate 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