White House Worried Dems Will Do 'Obstruction' On Judicial Nominees. Here's Hoping!
The Minnesota machine
Yesterday, the White House Office of the Press Secretary offered "for immediate release" a repost of part of an article from the Washington Times, about whether Senate Democrats would exercise a common parliamentary move to delay the confirmation of some federal judges. We're pretty sure "content aggregator" is not what the Press Secretary usually does -- maybe the Obama press office went Full Reddit and we never noticed, but we're pretty sure we'd remember.
The article itself is about a quaint old Senate rule where senators from the home states of nominees can withhold their consent through the "blue slip" process, which has been used as a way of letting legislators have some influence in the nomination process, since they supposedly know a thing or two about judicial nominees' history. Trump's current crop of 10 nominees for the federal bench has two nominees from states where Democrats hold both Senate seats: Michigan (Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters) and Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken). And while Senate Republicans just plain never returned their blue slips for Barack Obama's nominees, the Trump administration is getting awfully antsy that since it nominated the approved choices of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation in May, the four Democrats say they're still studying the records of the nominees and haven't returned their blue slips. Unfair! "Obstruction Alert!" yelled the White House as it lazily reblogged the Washington Times piece.
Not that the senators have been silent about the process; Al Franken has already said he's not too happy that rightwing lobbying groups had more input on the choice of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit than did Minnesotans (or the Senate). In a statement released just after the nomination, Franken wrote that while Stras was a "committed public servant," the process was hinky:
I am concerned, however, by that fact that Judge Stras' nomination is the product of a process that relied heavily on guidance from far-right Washington, DC-based special interest groups—rather than through a committee made up of a cross-section of Minnesota's legal community.
And what sort of terrific judge is David Stras? According to an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Stras
once lamented in a law review article that the U.S. Supreme Court has ventured “into contentious areas of social policy — such as school integration, abortion, and homosexual rights.”
Yeah, school integration is pretty contentious all right. And Stras isn't just recommended by the Federalist Society -- he's an active member of the group. And like Neil Gorsuch, he seems to have a habit of narrowly interpreting the law in order to give an advantage to the rich and powerful. We can see why Franken and Klobuchar might want to look at his record a little more closely.
So far, says Politico, Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley has resisted rightwing pressure to throw out the blue slip tradition; at least six other Republicans on Judiciary say they think it's a valuable curb on executive power.
“That’s been the traditions of the Senate, that home-state senators have a say,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a senior member of the committee. “I’m not about to give up my rights as a senator to have a say about district court judges who’ll represent my constituents long after the president’s gone.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who has 11 district court vacancies in his home state of Texas, along with two empty appellate court seats, called the blue slip an “equal opportunity irritant.”
“When it’s an impediment, then people don’t like it. When it’s helpful, people like it,” Cornyn said. “What it does [is], it provokes a negotiation, which I don’t think is an altogether bad thing.”
Huh! So the mean old Senate Democrats really are obstructing the Trump effort to remake the judiciary in the image of the Federalist Society, and they may even be joined by Republicans who have their eye on the next time they end up in the minority, with a Democratic president -- and god knows the Rs used it to block Obama nominations, leaving 129 unfilled judicial seats. Obviously, that's a crisis that the rules may need to be changed to address, and while it was perfectly acceptable for Republicans to block all those Obama nominees, the cause of Justice demands that Democrats stop being such terrible obstructionists.
God knows Donald Trump needs more federal judges who'll pledge not to muck around with touchy stuff like desegregation.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.