Senate confirms Trump nominee despite missing ‘blue slip’
The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm an appellate court pick for President Trump 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 Grassley (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 Franken (D-Minn.) refused to return his blue slip on Stras’s nomination. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (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 Smith (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 Schumer (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 Kennedy (R-La.) did not return a positive blue slip for Duncan.
Both Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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
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