Senate

Senate confirms Trump judicial pick over objections of home-state senator

Victoria Sarno Jordan

The Senate approved one of President Trump’s circuit court nominees on Thursday over the objections of his home-state senator, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Senators voted 49-46 to approve Michael Brennan’s nomination to be a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Only a simple majority was needed to approve Brennan, who appeared to have a lock on confirmation after clearing a procedural hurdle earlier this week. 

But the move enraged Democrats, who accused Republicans of bending the Senate’s rules by voting on Brennan despite Baldwin not returning a “blue slip” on the nominee.

Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the action a “slap in the face” of Senate custom and bipartisanship. 

“How is Sen. Baldwin’s right to consult on judges for her state any less important than Sen. Johnson’s? It’s mind-bending hypocrisy. It’s an appalling double standard,” he said.

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 varied over the year.

Baldwin didn’t return her blue slip for Brennan’s nomination, saying he failed to win the support of a nominating commission. 

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) previously refused to return a blue slip for an Obama-nominee for the seat, Victoria Nourse. She eventually withdrew her nomination. 

Brennan is the second circuit judge the Republican Senate has confirmed over the objections of a home-state senator. 

The Senate confirmed David Stras to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in January, making him the first Trump nominee to be confirmed despite a missing blue slip.

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.

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Franken’s successor, voted against Stras’s nomination. 

Grassley defended his decision to move forward with circuit court nominees even if home-state senators object.

“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 this week.

Tags Al Franken Amy Klobuchar Blue slip Charles Schumer Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Judicial nominees Ron Johnson Tammy Baldwin Tina Smith
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