Grassley Sacrifices Integrity in Blue Slip Flip-Flop

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Carolyn Bobb

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 16 – In response to news that Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley will go forward with a confirmation hearing for David Stras, nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, despite the absence of a blue slip from home-state Senator Al Franken, AFJ President Nan Aron released the following statement:

“This decision to shred the blue slip tradition is the latest outrageous move by Senate Republicans bent on shoving extreme, unqualified judicial nominees across the finish line as fast as possible. Not only that, Chairman Grassley has irretrievably sacrificed his own integrity in flip-flopping on the principle that blue slips must be respected. It’s no coincidence that this is happening as more light is being shed on the poor quality of President Trump’s judicial nominees. Democrats must not put up with this latest abuse of the judicial nominations process. They must now say ‘enough is enough’ and use every tool at their disposal to resist the damage being done to the federal judiciary.”

Not only will Stras’s nomination be advanced without a blue slip, his hearing is being scheduled on the same day as that of another circuit court nominee, Kyle Duncan. Committee leadership has repeatedly stacked hearings with more than one circuit-level nominee, making it more difficult for senators to fully evaluate each nomination.


  • His recent op-ed in The Hill notwithstanding, in 2015 Grassley bylined an op-ed in the Des Moines Register that included the following: “Over the years, Judiciary Committee chairs of both parties have upheld a blue-slip process, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, my immediate predecessor in chairing the committee, who steadfastly honored the tradition even as some in his own party called for its demise. I appreciate the value of the blue-slip process and also intend to honor it.”
  • During the Obama Administration, Republicans blocked 18 judicial nominees through blue slips.  During the Obama Administration, there were zero exceptions to the rule that both home state senators must approve a judicial nominee.  As Senator Hatch noted in 2014, diminishing this 100-year old tradition would, “sweep aside the last remaining check on the president’s judicial appointment power.” He added, “A confirmation process without filibuster or blue slip veto would weaken the collaboration between the president and the Senate, further politicize the confirmation process, and ultimately produce a more politicized federal judiciary.”
  • According to the Congressional Research Service, in 100 years, there have been only three exceptions to the practice that both home state senators must return a positive blue slip for a judicial nominee to be confirmed, the most recent in 1989.  Moreover, a judge has never been confirmed over the objections of both home-state senators.