Sen. Harris Speaks out Against Denial of Blue Slip Rights for Democratic Senators

WASHINGTON, D.C. May 10, 2018 –  At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris spoke out against the recent moves by the committee’s majority party to ignore the objections by Democratic senators to nominees for judicial appointments in their home-states. Traditionally, judicial appointments are processed when both home-state senators indicate their support of the nominee through a “blue slip.”

“The blue slip process was put in place to protect the rights of home-state senators, those who represent the people, who are elected by those people to have input in judicial nominees for lifetime appointments in the courts of their states,” said Harris. “Senator Feinstein and I should be treated the same as any of our other colleagues on either side of the aisle. I understand that the majority wants to confirm judges that they agree with ideologically and as quickly as possible. But jamming through extreme and unqualified nominees undermines the very nature of the judicial branch’s role in our government.”

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Yesterday, the committee moved forward and held a hearing for the first time to consider a judicial nominee over the objection of both home-state senators. In an interview earlier today, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated he would “absolutely” consider moving forward with nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California without blue slip approval by Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein. The court currently has three vacancies in California.

Full transcript of Harris’ statement:

Mr. Chairman, I’d ask that we remember and the American public remember the history.

In early 2009, when President Obama took office, every Senator from the Republican Party signed a letter stating that they would not move forward on a nomination if a home-state senator did not approve of a nominee from his or her state.

Chairman Leahy listened to this request and protected blue slips for senators in the minority, and ensured that all Senators, regardless of party, had a say in home-state nominees that were being put forward for a lifetime appointment.

This past Wednesday, this Committee moved forward with a hearing for a nominee who did not have a blue slip returned from either of his home-state senators, blatantly rejecting the rights of those Democratic home-state Senators.

And let’s remember what this is about. The blue slip process was put in place to protect the rights of home-state senators, those who represent the people, who are elected by those people to have input in judicial nominees for lifetime appointments in the courts of their states.

Unless there is a meaningful process that requires the consent of home-state senators, a President of any party, could simply disregard their advice and input.

Senator Feinstein and I both sit on this Committee, and both have judicial commissions that carefully vet candidates to fill these vacancies.

These Commissions ensure that candidates being put forward by the President are qualified, fair and impartial.

We recently provided our recommendations to the White House on the Ninth Circuit.

I hope the White House will work with us to put forward consensus nominees to this committee and hope that the Chairman will honor our blue slip rights, the requirement that we consent, before he moves forward on any nomination.

There is precedent for this. During the previous Administration, both Senator Leahy and Senator Grassley honored the two Texas Senators’ blue slip rights for the Fifth Circuit.

My understanding is that the previous administration was in negotiations with the two Texas Senators to find consensus nominees for two Fifth Circuit vacancies that arose in August 2012 and December 2013.

Because consensus could not be found during his term and because the previous president knew this committee would not move forward on a nomination without the home-state senators’ approval, the previous administration did not nominate anyone to those seats for four years.

As a result, it wasn’t until the next president that those seats were filled.

Just like Senators Wyden and Merkley, Senator Feinstein and myself aren’t trying to delay or run out the clock. We are simply doing our due diligence to find and vet nominees through the Commission process that other senators similarly have done.

Senator Feinstein and I should be treated the same as any of our other colleagues on either side of the aisle.

I understand that the majority wants to confirm judges that they agree with ideologically and as quickly as possible.

But jamming through extreme and unqualified nominees undermines the very nature of the judicial branch’s role in our government.

I appreciate the time, thank you, Mr. Chairman.