Senate Majority Leader says judicial nominees should be confirmed absent blue-slip approval

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Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Updated: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the blue-slip tradition shouldn't be allowed to deny judicial nominees a hearing and vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

McConnell discussed his view in an interview with the Weekly Standard that was noted by several publications, including Politico and the Washington Post.

The blue-slip practice requires consent from home state senators before the Senate Judiciary Committee proceeds with a federal judicial nomination.

McConnell told the Weekly Standard that Republicans will treat blue slips “as simply notification of how you’re going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball.” Initial reporting indicated McConnell was changing the blue-slip process, but a spokesperson later told the Huffington Post that McConnell was merely stating his personal views.

McConnell also told the Weekly Standard he will make confirmation of judicial nominees a priority. “Regardless of what tactics are used by Democrats, the judges are going to be confirmed,” he said.

Last month, McConnell told the New York Times that the blue slip process shouldn’t be used to block appeals judges, but he believed it should still be used for lower-court judges. Democratic senators have indicated they will use blue slips to oppose the nominations of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and federal prosecutor Ryan Bounds to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

McConnell is facing criticism from conservatives who say judicial nominees aren’t being approved quickly enough. Only seven judges have been confirmed this year, and Senate Republicans fear they could lose control of the Senate next year, hampering their ability to approve judges.

Reporting on McConnell’s statements got some pushback from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, according to Politico.

Grassley “will determine how to apply the blue slip courtesy for federal judicial nominees, as has always been the practice,” said Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy. “Senator Grassley has said that he expects senators and the president to continue engaging in consultation when selecting judicial nominees, and that, as in the past, any abuses of the courtesy would be addressed on a case-by-case basis,” Foy told Politico.

Updated on Oct. 12 to report that McConnell’s spokesman said he was merely discussing his own views on the blue-slip process.

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