FEATURED:

Senate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick

Senate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick
© Greg Nash
Senate Democrats held the floor on Tuesday night to protest the decision by GOP leadership to schedule a vote on a controversial circuit court nominee over the objection of both home-state senators. 
 
The Senate is expected to vote on Ryan Bounds's nomination to serve as an appeals judge on the 9th Circuit this week. 
 
But Democrats are blasting the decision to bring up the nomination, arguing Republicans are trashing Senate tradition by scheduling a vote despite opposition from home-state Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Poll: Dem incumbent holds 5-point lead in Oregon governor's race Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (Ore.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (Ore.). 
 
"This precedent shows that no principle is safe and no norm is inviolate in the right-wing fringe's campaign to remake the federal judiciary and to remake it in the image of the far-right in this country," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said from the Senate floor. 
 
Wyden added that Republicans have "changed the rules of the game" and marked the end of the blue-slip precedent. 
 
"This is lights out! Lights out for a process that ensured fairness for each senator," he said. 
 
 
Democrats held the floor for roughly three hours. In addition to Wyden, Schumer, Merkley and Blumenthal, Democratic Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (R.I.), 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 (Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money: Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi summit | Consumer bureau to probe controversial blog posts on race | Harris proposes new middle-class tax credit Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Booker holds 'Get Out the Vote' event in South Carolina as presidential speculation builds MORE (Mass.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDems target small cluster of states in battle for House Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials move to require drug prices in TV ads | 4,000 more people lose Medicaid in Arkansas | New top official for Medicaid Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE Jr. (Pa.) spoke on the Senate floor. 

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. 

How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the Judiciary Committee chairman. Enforcement has fluctuated depending on who controls the panel.
 
So far the Senate has confirmed two nominees where one senator did not return a blue slip since the start of the Trump administration. But Bounds would be the first appeals court nominee to be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Congress even though neither home-state senator returned their blue slip.
 
Democrats noted on Tuesday night that he would also be the first appeals court nominee in the history of the blue slip to be confirmed over the objection of both home-state senators. 
 
"I am deeply concerned that the 9th Circuit nominee now on the Senate floor will be receiving a vote despite not having a blue slip from either home-state senator. ... We have said there should be a blue slip. There is no blue slip in this case," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. 
 
She added that Bounds "will be the first judge in history to be appointed to the federal bench without a blue slip from either senator from his home state." 
 
Republicans have worked to confirm Trump's picks for the appeals court at a record pace. They're expected to set a new record this week for the number of circuit court nominees confirmed during a president's first two years. 
 
Democrats warned on Tuesday night that the move by Republicans would guarantee that they would not be able to block circuit court nominees from their own states when Democrats are back in the majority.  
 
"When the day comes when we have a Democratic president ... Republicans are going to regret that they threw their own blue-slip rights away," Whitehouse said. 
 
Merkley added that Republicans shouldn't "expect consultation from any future president when you happen to be in the minority." 
 
Republicans have defended moving forward with the nominations, arguing Democrats were trying to use the blue slip to block Trump's appeals nominees. 
 
They are also quick to argue that the decision by Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen MORE (D-Vt.), the former Judiciary Committee chairman during part of the Obama administration, to not move forward with a nomination if a home-state senator did not return a blue slip was an exception to how a blue slip has traditionally been used. 
 
But every GOP senator sent a letter to Obama in 2009 warning that if they weren’t consulted, and didn’t approve of, nominees from their home states they wouldn't let them move forward.