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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Leahy Gives Blue Clue

After several weeks of wondering, the question of blue slips is resolved. For now. Maybe. According to a report from Congressional Quarterly, Senate Judiciary Committe Chair Patrick Leahy plans to keep the blue slip system in place, at least for the time being. The blue slip is a part of Senate procedure through which a judicial nominee's home state senators provide their opinion on the nomination.

Senator Leahy said that he "intend[s] to continue using the same practices in this Congress in considering the nominees of President Obama. I expect good faith on all sides. I do not expect my efforts to be fair and protect the the rights of all members to be abused."

So it isn't carte blanche (or carte bleue, as the case may be) for Senate Republicans to play politics with the nominations process and return to the tactics they were so fond of using during the Clinton years. One of their favored tactics is a thing of the past, however. Senator Leahy has announced an end to the anonymous hold. If a senator wants to obstruct a nomination, that senator must be willing to do so publicly.

If their letter of last week is any indication, the Senate Republicans seem to have little reluctance when it comes to pursuing delay and obstruction through any procedural means they can. Senator Leahy should stand by his assertion that he will not allow what is essentially a procedural courtesy to be abused by a party with a long history of pursuing a political agenda for the federal bench rather than supporting nominees who respect core constitutional values. The Senate Judiciary Chairman giveth, and he can and should taketh away at the first sign the courtesy he is extending to his colleagues is not being reciprocated.

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