01.24.18

Leahy Committee Statement On The Nomination Of Michael Brennan to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

As the longest-serving member of the Senate and a former chairman of this Committee, I feel obligated to speak up about the steady erosion of this body’s norms and traditions.  Lately, unfortunately, I have had to speak up a lot.  Once again, I am concerned that the blue slip tradition that Chairman Grassley steadfastly adhered to during the Obama administration is being further tarnished today. 

This is not a matter of a chairman choosing a blue slip policy that differs from my own.  It is a matter of choosing a blue slip policy based on how the partisan winds blow.  Until recently, Chairman Grassley followed the same blue slip policy as I did: not a single judicial nominee received a hearing without first receiving both home state senators’ positive blue slips.  This process allowed senators to share their expertise and knowledge of their home state with the president.  It guarded the Senate’s advice and consent role in our constitutional scheme.  And it was a process that both the Chairman and I valued and protected during the Obama administration.

But President Trump’s nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Michael Brennan, has not received a positive blue slip from Senator Baldwin.  Indeed, this nominee was not even supported by the bipartisan Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission, a long-standing requirement for potential nominees to the Federal bench in Wisconsin.  The nominee was apparently chosen before the Commission could finish its work, and he ultimately did not receive enough votes to be supported by the Commission regardless.

Yet, somehow, Mr. Brennan is before the Committee today for his nominations hearing. 

Mr. Brennan’s nomination makes a mockery of the time-tested process that home state senators have abided by in Wisconsin for decades.  And his nomination makes a mockery of the blue slip tradition itself.  This is what happens when this Committee does not respect the rights of home state senators.  

I hope that the Republicans on this Committee have considered how this nominee has come before us, and what this could mean for future nominees in their own states.  The thing about partisan winds is, they tend to change direction.  At some point the White House will change hands.  And that is precisely why maintaining a single, consistent policy is so critical.

I never believed that protecting blue slips was a partisan issue.  To me, it was always about protecting the prerogatives of home state senators.  That means all senators, Republican and Democrat.  Apparently, home state senators have no such prerogatives in this Congress—if they happen to be Democrats.  I fear this will do lasting damage to the integrity of this Committee’s judicial confirmation process.

Mr. Brennan’s nomination should be withdrawn. 

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