- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2017

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said Thursday he hasn’t decided whether to disregard the chamber’s blue slip tradition and push through one of President Trump’s appeals court picks over the objections of a home-state Democrat.

“You need to ask me in a month,” he told The Washington Times.

Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, is flexing the blue-slip policy, which gives senators a say in judicial picks from their home states, in rejection of Minnesota’s Supreme Court Justice David Stras, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Unless both home-state senators return their blue slips signaling acquiescence, the Senate traditionally won’t proceed with a nomination.

An administration official told The Washington Times on Wednesday they hope Mr. Franken relents but if not, they want to see Republicans proceed with the nomination anyway.

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

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.

Earlier this year, Mr. Grassley said the blue slip tradition has generally been honored for district court judges rather than circuit court judges — something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, echoed on Wednesday.

“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.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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