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 Merkley (Ore.) and Ron Wyden (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. 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Republicans’s decision to move forward with Bounds’s nomination ignored a “bipartisan” and “moderation” tradition of the blue slip. 
Democrats held the floor for roughly three hours. In addition to Wyden, Schumer, Merkley and Blumenthal, Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Bob Casey 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 Leahy (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. 

Tags Amy Klobuchar blue slip rule Bob Casey Chuck Schumer court nominations Elizabeth Warren Jeff Merkley Patrick Leahy Ron Wyden Sheldon Whitehouse

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