Let us now celebrate the retirement of Pat Leahy
It doesn’t mean as much as it should with a 50/50 Senate and at least two members of the Dem caucus strongly committed to preserving the filibuster so that Republicans can kill it to advance their priorities instead, but more Democratic senators Get It now than ever before:
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee warned for years that a change Republicans made during the Trump administration for judicial nominees would one day work against them — and Wednesday was that day.
Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., held a confirmation hearing for Andre Mathis, President Joe Biden’s pick for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit that has historically been designated for a nominee from Tennessee.
Durbin did so over the objection of Tennessee Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, who as the home-state senators previously would have had a greater influence over who was nominated because of a long-standing committee tradition known as “blue slips.”
Republicans had used that to block some of President Barack Obama’s appeals court nominees, which left those spots vacant for President Donald Trump to fill. Under the tradition, if the home-state senators didn’t return the literal “blue slip” of paper to the committee, there would be no hearing and no confirmation.
But Republicans jettisoned that tradition during the Trump administration. Durbin on Wednesday said Republicans had moved 18 of Trump’s appeals court nominees through the committee without the return of “blue slips” from home-state Democratic senators, and ultimately confirmed 17 of them.
The best part, needless to say, is the hilariously bad faith whining by the Republican senators who eliminated the blue slip rule in the first place:
That comment was in response to Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy, who acknowledged the move during the Trump administration but suggested that the committee “call off the dogs” and find a “neutral way” to restore the blue slip process.
Durbin made it clear that wasn’t happening during the Biden administration. “Perhaps we can agree that prospectively after the 2024 presidential election, there will be a rule,” Durbin said. “We don’t know who’s going to win that at this point, and we might have a standard moving forward from there.”
Blackburn, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said during the hearing that the White House did not meaningfully consult her on the Mathis nomination. She said Durbin did not send her the blue piece of paper or give her enough advance warning that the hearing would happen.
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley — who as Judiciary chairman during the Trump administration moved forward on appeals court nominees without the blue slips from Democratic home-state senators — said the Tennessee senators “are right to be upset” because there was not enough consultation from the White House.
“The approach adopted by this administration ignores the idea of bipartisan cooperation. It is a severe change from past practices to require so little consultation,” Grassley said. “As has been said before, there cannot be one set of rules for Democrats and another set of rules for Republicans.”
Ah yes, who can forget Chuck Grassley’s legendary commitment to bipartisanship and impartial application of existing rules?
When Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) chaired the committee under his fellow Republican President George W. Bush, Hatch implemented a policy that “return of a negative blue slip by one or both home-state Senators does not prevent the committee from moving forward with the nomination — provided that the Administration has engaged in pre-nomination consultation with both of the home-state Senators.” The late Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who chaired the committee from 2005-07, allowed a single home state senator to veto a federal trial judge, but not a more powerful appellate nominee.
Yet, when Leahy took over the committee in 2007, he implemented a strict blue slip rule in an apparent effort to reach across the aisle to Republicans. “I have steadfastly protected the rights of the minority,” Leahy said in 2012. “I have done so despite criticism from Democrats. I have only proceeded with judicial nominations supported by both home state Senators.”
The Democrats who criticized Leahy for this practice at the time were correct. Not long after President Donald Trump took office, Grassley abandoned Leahy’s policy. Thanks to Leahy’s refusal to see his Republican colleagues with open eyes, several federal judgeships remained open for years under President Obama, only to be swiftly filled by Trump.
Let me say, in the spirit of bipartisan comity, that Chuck Grassley can eat twenty buckets of shit.