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Mississippi senator plans to block Biden judicial nominee

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith announced she will use a committee 'blue slip' tradition to stop a confirmation hearing

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., during a Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 4, 2022.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., during a Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 4, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said Tuesday she will formally block a judicial nominee from Mississippi, leaning on a contentious committee tradition that gives senators a de facto veto over appointments to district court seats in their home states.

President Joe Biden announced Scott Colom as a pick for a judgeship position in the federal Northern District of Mississippi in October. But his nomination has stalled, even as other judicial picks have funneled through the Senate Judiciary Committee process.

Hyde-Smith announced in a statement that she would formally oppose Colom’s nomination, citing concerns about his record.

“As someone with a strong interest in protecting the rights of girls and women, I am concerned about Scott Colom’s opposition to legislation to protect female athletes,” the Mississippi Republican said.

Hyde-Smith is blocking Colom’s nomination under a committee tradition known as the “blue slip” process, which some liberal advocates oppose, saying it allows senators to unfairly block Biden’s district judicial nominations.

The committee tradition requires that both home-state senators return blue slips on a district court nomination before a confirmation hearing is set. Senators from both parties have used the move in the past to block judicial nominees from their states.

Hyde-Smith, in the statement, said Colom is “smart and well liked in his district” but pointed to the support Colom received from liberal billionaire George Soros.

Colom was elected in 2015 as district attorney for the 16th circuit court district in Mississippi, a post he continues to hold today.

His opponent, a longtime incumbent who has been characterized as an aggressive prosecutor, has said the election outcome was tilted by money from Soros, according to a report from The Clarion-Ledger.

The billionaire provided almost $400,000 to a political action committee that backed the campaigns of Colom and another local election, according to the newspaper.

“The significant support his campaign received from George Soros also weighs heavily against his nomination in my view,” Hyde-Smith said in the statement. “I simply cannot support his nomination to serve on the federal bench in Mississippi for a lifetime.”

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., returned a blue slip for Colom’s nomination, but Hyde-Smith previously did not publicly state where she stood on the nomination.

Senate Judiciary Chair Richard J. Durbin has stood by the blue slip tradition and encouraged bipartisan cooperation. But with Hyde-Smith opposition, that position could be tested going forward.

The Illinois Democrat has said he would suspend the practice if he sees it being used to discriminate against a nominee over their race, gender or sexual orientation.

Christopher Kang, co-founder and chief counsel of progressive judicial advocacy group Demand Justice, issued a statement calling Colom an “extremely qualified nominee.”

“Sen. Hyde-Smith’s outrageous opposition should be a wake up call for anyone who seriously thinks the blue slip does anything but enable Republican extremism and obstruction,” Kang said.

Kang, who previously worked as Judiciary Committee counsel for Durbin, also said Durbin must reform the blue slip policy.

“At this point, Chair Durbin has a choice: reform the outdated blue slip tradition and give Scott Colom a fair hearing and vote, or endorse the worst kind of extreme Republican obstructionism,” Kang said.

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