“Now that Republicans control both the White House and Congress, top party officials, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, are itching to eliminate the last remaining tool the minority party has to influence a president’s picks for the federal courts — the so-called blue slip.
This longtime but informal Senate practice allows a senator to block the nomination of a judge from his or her home state by refusing to sign off on a blue-colored form. The idea was to give senators, who are presumed to be more familiar with the lawyers and judges in their own states, a meaningful say in the choosing of those judges. It also works as an incentive for moderation in staffing the federal judiciary, which, as the only unelected branch of government, depends on the public trust for its legitimacy.
But with Democratic senators now refusing to agree to hearings for two of President Trump’s nominees to the federal appeals courts, Mr. McConnell told The Times that the blue slip “ought to simply be a notification of how you’re going to vote, not the opportunity to blackball.”
What a difference a few years make.
Back in 2009, Mr. McConnell and the entire Republican Senate caucus — then in the minority — implored President Barack Obama to honor all blue slips. The appointment of federal judges is a “shared constitutional responsibility,” the Republicans said, warning Mr. Obama that “if we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states,” the senators intended to prevent that nominee from getting a hearing. They expected the blue-slip policy “to be observed, even-handedly and regardless of party affiliation.””