Dem senator won't return 'blue slip' for two Trump court picks
© Greg Nash

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Senators offer bill to prevent relief payments from being seized by private debt collectors MORE (D-Ohio) on Friday said he will not sign off on two of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE's judicial picks, escalating a long-simmering fight over nominations in the Senate. 

Brown said he will oppose the nominations of Chad Readler and Eric Murphy to serve on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“I cannot support nominees who have actively worked to strip Ohioans of their rights. Special interests already have armies of lobbyists and lawyers on their side, they don’t need judges in their pockets," Brown said in a statement.

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Because Brown is the home state senator for both Readler and Murphy he will receive "blue slips" allowing him to indicate whether he supports the nominations. 

Jennifer Donohue, a spokeswoman for Brown, said that while the senator has not yet received the blue slips he does not plan to return them for either nominee. 

That will force Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Rosenstein to testify as part of Graham's Russia investigation probe Grassley: White House 'failed to address' if there was a 'good reason' for IG firings MORE (R-Iowa) to decide if he will move forward with the nominations in the Judiciary Committee despite Brown's objections. 

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, the “blue slip,” to the Judiciary Committee.

But how strictly the precedent is followed is decided by the Judiciary Committee chairman — in this case, Grassley — and enforcement has varied over the years.

Donohue added that Brown "made very clear" to the White House that he couldn't support Readler or Murphy after meeting with them. 

"Senator Brown actively tried to work with the White House and offered alternative choices — including respected conservative lawyers. He remains willing to work with the White House on alternative candidates that he could support," she said.

Two of Trump's circuit court nominees have previously been confirmed by the Senate despite one of their home-state senators not returning a blue slip. 

Michael Brenna was confirmed to be a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last month despite objections from Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinMail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight Justice Department investigating meat price increases: report Klobuchar and Harris could bolster Biden in the Midwest MORE (D-Wis.), and David Stras was confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in January.

Then-Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPolitical world mourns loss of comedian Jerry Stiller Maher to Tara Reade on timing of sexual assault allegation: 'Why wait until Biden is our only hope?' Democrats begin to confront Biden allegations MORE (D-Minn.) refused to return his blue slip on Stras's nomination. Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithPelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Four Minneapolis officers involved in death of unarmed black man fired MORE (D-Minn.), Franken's successor, voted against Stras's nomination.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also advanced Ryan Bounds's nomination this week to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, despite the opposition of both home-state  Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Oregon GOP Senate nominee contradicts own campaign by saying she stands with QAnon MORE (Ore.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat FISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections MORE (Ore.).

Republicans are confirming Trump's circuit court nominees at a record pace. They are poised to confirm more appeals court picks for Trump during his first two years than other recent presidents got in the same time period. 

Grassley has defended his tactics, saying he will move forward with a circuit court pick when he feels like senators are trying to use the blue slip to obstruct Trump's nominees. 

"First, it is completely false that I have 'done away' with the blue-slip courtesy. My blue-slip policy is the same as all but two of my 18 predecessors," Grassley said last month.