This afternoon, the Senate confirmed Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to serve on the Eighth Circuit. David Stras had been the target of a politically motivated refusal to return a blue slip by former Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, who complained that he was too conservative. Franken's fellow Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, returned her blue slip. Despite Sen. Franken's protest,Chairman Chuck Grassley went ahead with a hearing for David Stras, noting that he will not allow senators to use the blue slip as a veto for circuit court nominees.
Tellingly, seven Democrats voted to confirm Justice Stras, demonstrating that all the heated rhetoric from Democrats about the sanctity of the blue slip has been just that - rhetoric:
#Senate CONFIRMED the nomination of David Stras to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the 8th Circuit by a vote of 56-42.— Senate Press Gallery (@SenatePress) January 30, 2018
Senator Capito and McCain did not vote.
7 Democrats voted yes:
Seven is a large number of Democratic votes for any Trump Circuit Court nominee to receive, as the Democrats have been fairly united in opposing Trump's judicial nominees. It's also worth noting that four of them, Sens. Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, and McCaskill, are up for re-election this year in states that President Trump won in 2018. We may see more carefully chosen votes in favor of the President's nominees in the coming months.
But that they chose to vote to confirm David Stras, when they had an easy excuse to vote no in the withheld blue slip, demonstrates the excellence of Justice Stras as a nominee. We can only hope that it also indicates some weakening of the Democrats' mindless obstruction of President Trump's nominees as the 2018 election nears.