The Senate blue slip process was established more than a hundred years ago to ensure that home-state senators have an opportunity to weigh in on federal judicial nominees from their state. Some senators consult with bipartisan nominating committees in their states, making the blue slip process a vetting mechanism with feedback from the states. An informal process and a Senate tradition not mandated by law, the blue slip practice can facilitate the Senators’ fulfillment of their constitutional power to give “advice and consent” on federal judicial appointments.
In 2017, however, with the start of the Trump presidency and Republican control of Congress, there were ominous signs that Senate Republicans would bow to demands from the President and right-wing backers to ignore the blue slip tradition. Bypassing the blue slip process makes it easier for POTUS and the Republican-controlled Senate to appoint judges who are so extreme that they never would have received a hearing in past administrations. These judgeships are lifetime appointments, and a single federal judge may influence our laws for decades.
On November 29, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings for two nominees who had not received blue slip approvals from both their home-state senators. This break from a bipartisan tradition rests squarely on Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and has effectively ended the blue slip custom for his tenure as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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