- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2017

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley said Thursday he’s scheduling confirmation hearings for two of President Trump’s circuit court nominees, despite opposition from two of their home-state senators.

The Iowa Republican said his committee will hold a hearing Nov. 29 for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, nominated to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Kyle Duncan, nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Both Justice Stras and Mr. Duncan had one of their home state senators refuse to return their blue slip, signaling they didn’t consent to the nominee.

Blue slips are a long-standing tradition promoting consultation between the president and senators on judicial picks, but Mr. Grassley said they have rarely been a hard-and-fast veto.

“I won’t allow senators to prevent a committee hearing for political or ideological reasons. Using the blue slip for these purposes is not consistent with historical practice,” said Mr. Grassley on the chamber floor.

The committee’s top Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said the decision was “troubling” and a move to cut Democrats out of the process.

“There’s a long history as it pertains to the blue slip, but what’s most relevant is the last two years. Republicans shouldn’t have one blue slip policy for Democratic presidents and another for Republican presidents,” she said.

Ms. Feinstein said Mr. Grassley refused to proceed with a number of President Obama’s nominees in 2015 and 2016 because they didn’t have blue slips returned from both senators.

Under a Senate tradition, unless one home-state senator returns their blue slip signaling acquiescence, the Senate Judiciary Committee usually won’t proceed with a nomination. Some chairmen have required both home-state senators return their blue slips in order to proceed with a nominee.

The tradition is intended to encourage home-state consultation, but it has become a sort of soft filibuster for both parties, who have used it to stymie nominees of presidents of both parties.

Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, has refused to return his blue slip for Justice Stras, saying he wasn’t consulted by the White House on the judicial vacancy.

But Mr. Grassley said the White House reached out to Mr. Franken several times earlier this year.

“I am satisfied that the White House adequately tried to consult with both home-state senators. Therefore, I will not deny Justice Stras a hearing,” he said.

Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, didn’t return his blue slip for Mr. Duncan, withholding his judgment on the nominee. But Mr. Kennedy did say he thinks Mr. Duncan should be given a hearing.

“This is the correct distinction a senator should make when deciding whether to return a blue slip,” said Mr. Grassley.


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