Trump court pick confirmed despite no blue slip from Schumer, Gillibrand

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE’s pick for an influential circuit court despite neither home-state senator returning a blue slip.  

Senators voted 54-42 on Joseph Bianco’s nomination to serve as a judge for the 2nd Circuit. Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE (W.Va.) and Doug Jones (Ala.) voted with Republicans to confirm him.

Bianco’s confirmation comes despite neither Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workers GOP super PAC launching August ad blitz Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (D-N.Y.) nor Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandProgressives soaring after big primary night Bill from Warren, Gillibrand and Waters would make Fed fight economic racial inequalities Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman MORE (D-N.Y.) returning a blue slip on his nomination. He is Trump’s 38th appeals judge to be confirmed.

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Bianco was confirmed unanimously to serve as a district court judge in 2005, but his current nomination had run into controversy because of his ties to the Federalist Society.

Judicial nominations have also become a lightning rod during the Trump administration, with Republicans moving on appeals judge nominations despite the objections of Democratic senators. 

The confirmation of Bianco marks the third time a circuit court judge has ever been confirmed without a blue slip, a sheet of paper that indicates if a home-state senator supports a nominee. 

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 the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.

How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the committee chairman, and enforcement has varied depending on who wields the gavel. 

But the use of the blue slip has emerged as a flashpoint during the Trump administration as several Democratic senators have refused to return their paperwork on circuit court nominees from their home states, setting up a round of fights between Democrats and the White House.

The Senate confirmed several appeals judges who were missing one blue slip last year, but the confirmation in February of Eric Miller to be a 9th Circuit judge was the first known instance of an appeals judge being confirmed without a blue slip from either home-state senator. 

Senate Republicans also confirmed Paul Matey for the 3rd Circuit even though Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (D-N.J.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEx-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets Exclusive: Democrats seek to increase racial diversity of pandemic relief oversight board USAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency MORE (D-N.J.) didn’t return their blue slips.

The Senate is also expected to vote this week on Michael Park’s nomination to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Park also did not receive a blue slip from Schumer or Gillibrand, which would make him the fourth appeals judge confirmed despite objections from both home-state senators.

Schumer pledged after the two were voted out of the Judiciary Committee that he would oppose the nominations, characterizing them as “another partisan push by Senate Republicans for hard-right nominees to get lifetime appointments on the federal bench.” 

“I will be strongly opposing these nominations when they come to the Senate floor,” he said at the time. 

Republicans have homed in on confirming Trump’s court picks, arguing it's their best shot at having a long-term impact on the direction of the country. They set a record pace at confirming appeals judges and confirmed Trump’s 100th judge overall last week.  

McConnell praised Bianco ahead of his vote on Wednesday, noting the Senate’s previous support for him.

“The Senate confirmed him to that last role by a voice vote back in 2005,” he said. “So I hope we can muster another strong, bipartisan vote of confidence in this exceptionally well-qualified nominee.”