by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Alex Seitz-Wald of NBC News reports on the potential demise of a 100-year-old tradition that inflates the power of individual U.S. senators.
There are few pieces of paper more powerful than a Senate “blue slip,” which gives individual senators near-veto power over nominees to federal courts.
But they may now be losing their power, clearing the way for President Donald Trump to remake the federal judiciary in his image and potentially changing the way the Senate and the courts operate for years.
The power of blue slips can be traced back to 1917, when Georgia Democratic Sen. Thomas Hardwick was the first known senator to use the form to object to a nomination, according to the Congressional Research Service. On a light blue sheet of paper soliciting his opinion on President Woodrow Wilson’s pick for a Georgia judgeship, Hardwick called U.V. Whipple “personally offensive and objectionable to me.” The Senate rejected the nomination, and blue slips evolved from there. …
… Republicans effectively and systematically wielded blue slips to block many of Obama’s court picks, leaving behind over 100 vacancies that Trump gets to fill.
It’s unclear how many of Trump’s picks are being held up by Democrats today, but one case involving Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. has already become a flashpoint.
If the blue slip disappears, the filibuster might be the next relic of Senate history to disappear.