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

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report 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 ManchinJoe ManchinSinema defends filibuster ahead of Senate voting rights showdown The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin MORE (W.Va.) and Doug Jones (Ala.) voted with Republicans to confirm him.

Bianco’s confirmation comes despite neither Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHeatwaves don't lie: Telling the truth about climate change Schumer backing plan to add dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (D-N.Y.) nor Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOur new praetorian guard? Gillibrand: Military must make changes beyond sexual assault cases COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave 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) MenendezSchumer says Senate will vote on repealing 2002 war authorization The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Sanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale MORE (D-N.J.) and Cory BookerCory BookerThis week: Senate set for voting rights fight Congress must act to correct flaws in the First Step Act Democrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination 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.”