Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has just doomed one of the President’s opposition’s most significant tools for obstructing the Trump agenda: the blue slip policy. While this scratches the surface of ending the egregious actions in the Senate against President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, McConnell still has another battle on his hands.
The blue slip policy was an archaic Senate tradition in which a Senator from a nominee’s state can halt their consideration, essentially vetoing the nominee. With only seven judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate, despite Trump’s now 54 pending nominations, McConnell has placed part of the blame on this policy for allowing individual politicians to single handily stall the confirmation process.
McConnell stated the blue slip policy will act “as simply notification of how you’re going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball.” This is a smart decision considering the blue slip process represents the slow, outdated, and partisan policies of the swamp, but a closer look at the judicial nominations still pending proves the real issue is rooted much deeper in the Senate.
While this move will effectively allow the nine judicial nominees from states with Democrat senators to be freed up for consideration in committee, assuming they were all be blue slipped, it does nothing to expedite the process for the 10 judicial nominees who have cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and are merely awaiting a confirmation vote on the floor. And there are another 35 judicial nominees from states with Republican senators.
Unless Republicans were blue slipping conservative judicial nominees, McConnell cannot use the blue slipping process as an excuse for slowing down this entire process.
President Trump made the addition of conservative judges a pivotal point in his campaign for office, to prevent Democrats from completely dominating the federal bench after eight years of Obama, a goal that began with but extended far past Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. As Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell must assist Trump in making this a reality.
Trump has announced eight rounds of judicial nominations so far with 54 nominees and the Senate has only confirmed seven judges. There is no more apparent obstruction than this branch of government’s actions.
As Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning explains, “To keep pace with the modern historical average of Presidents filling about 163 federal judicial vacancies per term, the Senate will need to speedily confirm all of the President’s 54 pending judicial picks. It’s time to get the process moving. One of the reasons Republicans rallied to President Trump in 2016 was because he said he would even the balance of federal courts away from Democrat control. With a Republican Senate, no more judicial filibuster and no more binding blue slips, there is simply no reason this process should be all gummed up.”
McConnell took a great step in removing a policy that enabled Senate stagnation, but he cannot continue to push the blame solely on Democrats. McConnell must continue reforming Senate tradition while identifying the politicians within his own party hurting the progress of Trump’s agenda.
McConnell must take control of the Senate; their inaction is depriving the American people of the judiciary they elected when they put Trump in office. While removing the blue slip process was notable, it clearly does not address all the problems within the Senate slowing consideration of judicial nominees, it is time for McConnell to identify and remove them.