Today in Judicial Confirmations: Brennan Confirmed to 7th Circuit; Democrats Continue to Argue Blue Slip History

Today, the Senate confirmed Judge Michael Brennan to the Seventh Circuit and invoked cloture on Joel Carson (Tenth Circuit) and John Nalbandian (Sixth Circuit).  The Senate Judiciary Committee favorably reported Mark Bennett (Ninth Circuit), Nancy E. Brasel (D. Minn.), Robert R. Summerhays (W.D. La.), and Eric C. Tostrud (D. Minn.) to the Senate.

In the past few days, the Senate Democrats have turned to complaining about Chairman Chuck Grassley's blue slip policy, instead of attacking these excellent nominees' qualifications and merits, which has been a largely failed strategy. Chairman Grassley defended his blue slip policy on the Senate floor yesterday, as we described in yesterday's blog post.

Chairman Grassley reiterated at today's Senate Judiciary meeting that rather than his blue slip policy being unprecedented, the obstruction and delays by the Senate Democrats are truly what is unprecedented.  He described how blue slips entitle senators to consultation, not a one-person veto to the President's exercise of his authority. He has ensured that the purpose of the blue slip has been carried out for all nominees by requesting from the White House consultation logs for senators who have refused to return blue slips before he went ahead with hearings.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri also called out the Senate Democrats' obstruction on the Senate floor yesterday:

The fact that the Senate's time is taken in a way that it never has been before to process the president's nominations is outrageous. It's just outrageous. There's some view that, well, we need more time to think about the nominee. There's plenty of time to do that. It's called the committee process. It's called a vetting process that also may very well take too long now, but there is plenty of time for these circuit court nominees that we're voting on this week to be vetted.  There’s plenty of time to ask them questions.  There’s plenty of time to look into their background.  

The only reason, in my view, that we take the time we’re taking to do six votes, basically six votes on six judges in a week.  That's six 15-minute votes, if we were efficient enough to do that, that would be an hour and a half we’d take to vote on these six judges, and the final vote on none of them would be different than taking five days.  So why do you take five days?  You take five days because that means we can’t get to anything else.  Not only does it mean that the President’s ability to populate the government, as people elected him to do, is diminished, but also it eliminates the time we have to do the other work that the Senate is designed to do.  The Senate is in, as the Majority Leader likes to describe it, the personnel business, but it’s not supposed to be the only business of the Senate. 

I think we’ve [had] now over 90 of these cloture motions on nominees that the President’s made.  90.  Now, what does that mean?  In the previous six administrations, in the first two years of each of them, there was a total of 24 cloture motions – . . . 24 times, six presidents, in the first two years, an average of four times.  We’re going to certainly be to 104 times well before the end of two years. . . . 

No votes will be persuaded by running the clock.  No votes will be changed by running the clock.  And the power, of course, to put people on a federal bench for life is an important power given in the Constitution to the President for the Supreme Court and such other courts as the Congress may determine the country needs.  It’s not a thing to be taken lightly, but it’s also not a thing to be abused.  It’s not a process where the protection that you might use four times in two years is suddenly used 90 times in 15 months.  Something is wrong when that has happened to the process.

The Senate will reconvene next week to consider cloture motions on three additional circuit court nominees and vote on the Carson and Nalbandian nominations. Thanks to Chairman Grassley, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the Senate Republicans, the Democrats are only able to delay nominations and prevent the Senate from dealing with its other business but not ultimately prevent the confirmation of President Trump's excellent judicial nominees.