- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

President Trump is standing by his nominee to fill a seat on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, despite a blockade by Sen. Al Franken, who is using the Senate’s arcane “blue slip” policy to try to sink the pick, an administration official said Wednesday.

Mr. Franken, flexing a Senate tradition that gives home-state senators a say in judicial picks, refused to return his blue slip for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras. Under the usual practice, that would derail the nominee.

But the administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they’re hoping either Mr. Franken relents or Senate Republicans proceed with the nomination anyway, notwithstanding the blue slip policy.

“The administration stands behind Justice Stras and remains fully committed to his nomination to the 8th Circuit,” the official told The Washington Times.

The stance marks an escalation in the judicial battle, where Democrats, left without the ability to use a minority filibuster, are searching for ways to block judicial picks they deem too conservative.

Mr. Franken said he opposed Justice Stras because he said he looks to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Justice Antonin Scalia as role models.

“I am concerned that a nominee nurtured by such an ideology would likely seek to impose it on the litigants before him,” Mr. Franken said last week in announcing his decision.

Fellow Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar had said she would not stand in the way of the nomination, but under the blue slip policy both home-state senators are supposed to acquiesce.

Soon after Mr. Franken’s stand, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon said they wouldn’t return their blue slips for Ryan Bounds, a nominee to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Grassley said earlier this year the blue slip tradition has generally been honored for district court judges rather than circuit court judges, but he hasn’t commented on what he plans to do with Mr. Bounds and Justice Stras now that their blue slips are officially being withheld.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, echoed Mr. Grassley’s earlier sentiment on Wednesday, saying blue slips shouldn’t be used to obstruct Mr. Trump’s circuit court nominees.

“My personal view is that the blue slip, with regard to circuit court appointments, ought to simply be a notification of how you’re going to vote, not the opportunity to blackball,” Mr. McConnell told the New York Times.

Mr. McConnell added he thought the blue slips should be respected for district court judges, who serve in only one state. Circuit nominees, meanwhile, cover multiple states.

The 8th Circuit covers Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas.

The 9th Circuit, meanwhile, covers California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Idaho and Nevada.

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