November 29, 2017

Explaining the Senate’s Blue Slip Process

Washington—Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following background on the blue-slip policy, which requires senators to sign off on judicial nominees from their states.

This morning’s Judiciary Committee nominations hearing includes a nominee who has yet to receive both blue slips from home-state senators.

The blue-slip policy incentivizes consultation between the White House and home-state senators on judicial nominees, ensuring that nominees are mainstream and well-suited to serve in their states. For example, many senators use bipartisan committees to screen and recommend judicial nominees. The blue slip ensures the White House doesn’t ignore those bipartisan processes, which produce well-qualified candidates.

Fact: The last time a judge was confirmed without two blue slips was 1989, nearly 30 years ago.

Fact: Fewer than five judges have been confirmed without two blue slips in the past 100 years.

Fact: During the administrations of Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, no circuit court or district court nominees were confirmed without blue slips from both home-state senators. 

Fact: Chairman Grassley had one policy for President Obama’s nominees. He has a different policy for President Trump’s nominees. From 2015-2016, Chairman Grassley didn’t hold hearings on the following Obama nominees because they didn’t have two blue slips.

  • Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Haywood (3rd Circuit-Penn.)
  • Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes (6th Circuit-Ky.)
  • U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon (11th Circuit-Ala.)
  • Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby (7th Circuit-Ind.)
  • South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Don Beatty (District Court-S.C.)
  • Former Judge Mary Barzee Flores (Southern District-Fla.)
  • Judge Dax Lopez (Northern District-Ga.)
  • Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson (Eastern District-N.C.)
  • Anne Traum (District Court-Nev.)

Fact: Chairman Leahy had a consistent policy for Democratic and Republican presidents. He did not hold a hearing on a single Obama nominee who did not have two blue slips, including when:

  • Senators initially returned blue slips but later rescinded them.
  • Judicial vacancies were left open for years.
  • When Senators had recommended the nominee to the White House in the first place, but then refused to return a blue slip on the same nominee.
  • When Senators recommended a nominee to the White House for a district court vacancy, but refused to return a blue slip for that same nominee when nominated to a circuit court vacancy.

Fact: During the Obama administration, the blue slip was honored even when senators took years to return their blue slips. Judge Jill Pryor was nominated to the Eleventh Circuit in February 2012, but Senators Isakson and Chambliss did not return their blue slips until April 2014, 803 days later.

Fact: Chairman Grassley has different standards for what qualifies as adequate consultation with home-state senators based on whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican. For example, he didn’t hold a hearing last year for Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes, even though Senator McConnell admitted that he had “a back and forth with the administration for a year and a half or two over that particular seat on the Sixth Circuit.”

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