Politico reported earlier this week that the conservative Judicial Crisis Network had planned to spend a quarter-million dollars on ads pushing McConnell to more aggressively shepherd judicial nominees to passage before his aides headed it off.
The veteran Iowa Republican is under pressure to ditch the chamber's "blue slip" tradition that permits members of the minority party to have significant input into which judicial nominees are confirmed. As ThinkProgress's Ian Millhiser explained in a history of the practice, prior to Leahy and Grassley, only one Judiciary Committee chairman had followed a strict rule of letting one senator veto judicial nominees from his or her state; others gave some deference to home-state senators, but in varying degrees. "Over the years, chairmen have applied the courtesy differently, but the spirit of consultation has always remained".
In his interview, McConnell said that, from now on, Republicans will treat a blue slip "as simply notification of how you're going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball".
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"This should be, and has historically been, the decision of the chair, and Chuck Grassley has been trying to be as fair as possible", said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who specializes in judicial nominations. Maybe Grassley hadn't made up his mind about blue slips, and McConnell chose to force the issue. With Democratic Senator Al Franken asserting the right to veto a circuit-court judge from Minnesota, and both Democratic senators from OR objecting to another nominee from their state, push will soon come to shove. By basically turning over his judicial nominating process to hard-core ideologues, Donald Trump has gone a long way toward overcoming the mistrust of Republican presidents among those whose primary focus is to reverse federal court precedents legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage, and allowing the expansion of the federal government at the expense of property owners. "The committee has scheduled a hearing next week for five additional judicial nominees".
And when nominees "come out of committee, I guarantee they will be dealt with", McConnell said. Grassley has called for the Senate to skip recesses (in fact, senators are away this week) until the backlog is resolved. McConnell's vocal push to change the blue slip could inoculate from some of that criticism.
Another group, the Conservative Action Project, released a memo this week signed by more than 100 conservative activists demanding that McConnell "IMMEDIATELY schedule committee and floor action every Thursday and Friday for the foreseeable future" to confirm judges and other presidential nominees. I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it'.
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He mentioned a September article where McConnell said his personal view is that senators shouldn't be able to use blue slips to block appeals court nominees, but should be able to for the lower district court nominees.
"The Senate has fewer and fewer mechanisms that create bipartisanship and bring people to an agreement". Without blue slips from both senators, the nominee won't get a hearing and the nomination is effectively dead.
"The campaign, including the advertising, is in a holding pattern for now because Leader McConnell's office has reached out and wants to have discussions about how best to proceed in the coming months in order to avoid the kind of judicial confirmations bottleneck that the groups are concerned about", a Judicial Crisis Network spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. "We hope that Chairman Grassley, who has always believed in the traditions of the Senate, will resist Senator McConnell's request".
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