Should Home State Senators Be Able to Block Judicial Nominations?

TAPPED, the American Prospect’s blog, complains about Orrin Hatch changing the rules for judicial nomination hearings.

I don’t have a strong judgment one way or the other on the specifics of these Senate rules, but TAPPED’s complaint hardly seems a principled one.

A Senator from a nominee’s home state had once been able to indefinitely block a nominee by placing a so-called “blue slip” on the nomination. Then the requirement changed, under Hatch as judiciary committee chairman, to both home state senators placing a “blue slip” on a nominee to block a hearing. Now Hatch is scheduling hearings on Bush judicial nominees over Democratic blue slips from Michigan.

TAPPED complains that this is

    breaking with a Senate tradition

But as Robert Kuttner explained in the American Prospect a couple years back,

    [I]t was Hatch, in 1995, who hardened the blue-slip policy to allow a single senator to block a nomination indefinitely.

Some Senate tradition; eight years old. And it’s a tradition that the Prospect has complained about in the past

    “It’s irresponsible,” Leahy complained of the blocked nominations to The Washington Post. “If you don’t like a president’s nominee, then vote against him.”

So Hatch changes the rules and TAPPED cries foul. Even though making the most of judiciary committee rules to halt nominees is something that American Prospect authors have advocated in the past. But there isn’t a principled objection here, as the closing line of this TAPPED post makes clear:

    Republican senators routinely placed blue slips on Clinton nominees without articulating any specific objections. Turnabout seems like fair play to Tapped.

Which is it? Are blue slips an important tool, or an abomination? Should all of a President’s nominees get hearings, or should Senate rules allow individual members to stymie the process? I believe there are reasonable arguments on both sides of this debate. The American Prospect seems to make whichever argument is convenient at the time, so it is of little help to me in sorting out the correct conclusion.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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