Leahy Defends Senators’ Role in Vetting Judges in Their States

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted April 8, 2014 at 1:51pm

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy has again come to the defense of allowing home-state senators to block the nominations of federal judges in their states, even when the senators are Republicans.  

The Vermont Democrat penned an opinion piece for Sunday’s Rutland Herald after the newspaper picked up a New York Times editorial  calling for the end of the “blue slip” consent process under which the Judiciary Committee declines to move forward with nominees for the federal bench until the home state senators sign off.  

“The blue slip is just a piece of paper and could be eliminated today, but that would not change the importance of home state senators’ support for confirming judicial nominees to the states they represent. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I have worked tirelessly to get judicial nominees confirmed. I cannot recall a single judicial nominee being confirmed over the objection of his or her home state senators,” Leahy wrote . “The blue slip process reflects this reality, and those who care about the courts and who want qualified judges confirmed should not overlook this fact.”  

The Times editorial said that by adhering to tradition, Leahy is “undercutting the important Senate rules change in November that prevented a minority of senators from blocking any executive nomination. Blue slips, or the lack thereof, have held up 11 judicial nominees; there are also 30 vacancies with no nominees because it is clear that a Republican senator would object.”  

In his response, Leahy renewed a statement he’s made many times that he could envision a scenario where he might bypass the process.  

“I have long made clear that I would not rule out proceeding with a nomination if the blue slip is abused,” Leahy said. But to Leahy, that time is not yet now.  

The White House has called the blue slip “a silent, unaccountable veto”  while some Democrats have chafed at picks the president has made as part of broader deals cut with Republican senators.