Lindsey Graham: Blue slips won’t derail Trump appeals court picks

February 7, 2019 GMT

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said Thursday that he will honor the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition when it comes to district court judges but not for appeals court nominees, giving Democrats only a limited veto over President Trump’s judicial picks.

Mr. Graham said he’s taking heat from some on the right for allowing an effective veto for the lower judges, but said it’s important home-state senators continue to have some say in who gets picked for courts that operate completely within their boundaries.

“When it comes to district court judges, nobody is going forward unless we get consent from senators at from state,” Mr. Graham said.

But he said he won’t allow Democrats to stymie a president’s picks to the appeals courts, where many big legal decisions are made.

He did, though, say he will work to try to forge agreements between senators and the White House as much as possible.

Blue slips are meant to facilitate the “advice” part of the “advice and consent” powers the Constitution gives senators over presidential judicial picks. Senators are asked to return blue slips to signify their acquiescence in the pick.

Over the years, different chairmen have treated blue slips differently though Republicans said only in rare cases have they actually been allowed to be used as an absolute veto.

Democrats, left with a toothless filibuster after they eviscerated that process in a 2013 vote, complained that they have no options available to block presidential picks they don’t like.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said the blue slip process is the only tactic to preserve a longstanding tradition that appeals court seats are assigned to each state.

“We haven’t thought this through, because we’re so eager to move these judges we’re willing to break down the blue slip,” Mr. Whitehouse said. “But if you’ve got no blue slip, you’ve got nothing that says that there’s such a thing as your home state seat on your circuit.”

Mr. Graham said that’s essentially right and he blamed Democrats for creating that situation by triggering the “nuclear option” to defang the filibuster in 2013.

“Everything you said is true. It’s going to get worse over time,” Mr. Graham said. “The day that you dealt yourself out as a minority to have a say about who gets on the court was the day everything changed.”