Comment of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On Senator McConnell’s Remarks Concerning The “Blue Slip” Tradition

[The Constitution requires presidents to seek both the “Advice and Consent” of the Senate in appointing judges to lifetime posts on the federal courts.  Blue slips distributed and collected by the Judiciary Committee are an enforcement mechanism for the “advice” prong of the Senate’s constitutional role.  When a senator returns a favorable blue slip it demonstrates that the senator elected to represent that state with the judicial vacancy was consulted, and that the nominee is likely to be confirmed.]

“It was not that long ago that Senator McConnell led a letter to President Obama, which was also delivered to me, stating that the Republican Conference expected the blue slip policy to be observed, ‘even-handedly and regardless of party affiliation.’  I did just that as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.  While I was chairman no judicial nominee — district court or circuit court — received a hearing without the committee first receiving both home state senators’ favorable blue slips.  I maintained this policy during both Republican and Democratic administrations, even in the face of significant pressure from within my party to abandon it, including from Senate leadership.  This protected not just the rights of both Republicans and Democrats, but it protected the Senate’s unique institutional role in our democracy by making meaningful the Constitution’s ‘Advise and Consent’ requirement.

“Now that a Republican is in the White House, Senator McConnell is trying to turn the Judiciary Committee into a rubber stamp for President Trump.  But it is not up to Senator McConnell; it is up to the committee’s chairman. Chairman Grassley has told me he will respect the blue slip tradition, just as I did.  I trust him to keep his word.”

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