Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said that the senator has a tradition of using blue slips, and "expects senators and the president to continue engaging in consultation when selecting judicial nominees". As ThinkProgress's Ian Millhiser explained in a history of the practice, prior to Leahy and Grassley, only one Judiciary Committee chairman had followed a strict rule of letting one senator veto judicial nominees from his or her state; others gave some deference to home-state senators, but in varying degrees. They can't afford to slip up, blue or not.
It's true, the blue-slip tradition isn't all that hallowed.
McConnell told the Weekly Standard that Republicans will treat blue slips "as simply notification of how you're going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball". A Congressional Research Service report noted that "since 1979, the impact of negative blue slips has varied as leadership in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary has changed".
But McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said McConnell was talking about his own view on blue slips, and was not saying that Republicans won't uphold the rule anymore. If it sticks, it will matter for a long, long time.
"We have not made any announcements about a Conference or committee position", he added.
Both parties have used blue slips to block a president's court picks. According to the official site for United States Courts, there are now 149 vacancies. Republican senators withheld blue slips on 18 judicial nominees during the Obama administration.
It's ultimately up to Sen. So far, he has, and Sen. "I trust him to keep his word".
"This should be, and has historically been, the decision of the chair, and Chuck Grassley has been trying to be as fair as possible", said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who specializes in judicial nominations. Grassley has been a longtime supporter of blue slips.
The Republican drive to confirm federal judges has gained momentum from a series of actions by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell's aides contacted the group to defuse the situation, per Politico.
But, it seems that solitary confirmation is also the singular key achievement in the judicial realm, and conservative groups are growing increasingly restless in watching and waiting for more open judgeships to be filled.
The conservative groups asserted that the Senate Republicans had not made any legislative achievement in 2017 and had not taken advantage of their majority following the 2016 election. The White House has been working closely with the right-leaning Federalist Society to pick his appeals court nominees, many of whom have been young, conservative, and opposed to LGBTQ rights and abortion rights. They seem modest but are likely to speed up the confirmation of both appeals and district court judges-conservatives, for the most part. McConnell told Barnes that he can make that work, presumably by scheduling the Senate for continuous session and forcing Democrats to spend their debate time on the graveyard shift.
In an interview with the Weekly Standard, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, stressed that the use of so-called "blue slips" - named after the piece of paper senators from a potential federal judge's state must sign to indicate their approval - is a custom, not a rule, and that the use of them will no longer be enforced.
And when nominees "come out of committee, I guarantee they will be dealt with", McConnell said. "Regardless of what tactics are used by Democrats, the judges are going to be confirmed", he said. "It's just a shame that Senator McConnell is willing to abandon it".
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