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The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (R) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (L), confer before listening to NSA Director General Keith Alexander (not pictured) in Washington December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (U

Congressional Democrats, civil rights leaders, and LGBT and women's rights leaders are angry with President Obama over his nomination of two decidedly conservative and fundamentally unacceptable people to federal judgeships in Georgia. Obama made these nominations in an attempt to work Georgia's Republican senators to try to get these vacancies filled, a situation that demonstrates just how messed up the Senate and Obama's relationship is. That dysfunctional relationship is getting some high-profile attention from The New York Times.
The conflict is the latest twist in a struggle over confirmations. Thefilibuster change, while heralded, had only a limited impact on the ability of Democrats to push through federal judges to lifetime appointments.

Senators still hold virtual veto power over judicial nominations associated with their states under a custom of the Senate Judiciary Committee that requires senators to return a “blue slip” acquiescing in a nomination before it can move forward.

Blue slips have been difficult to get in the case of nominations from states where one or both senators are Republicans. Of 18 pending nominations from those states, according to the committee, no Republican blue slips have been submitted, and Democrats have submitted only a few. [...]

[S]enators in both parties have shown reluctance to take that step since they do not want to lose influence over high-profile, lifetime judicial appointments in their states. They recognize that voting for judges opposed by home-state senators could later backfire on them if the tables are turned. “We could do away with the blue slip tomorrow, and it would not change a thing,” Mr. Leahy said. “Nominees opposed by home-state senators will not get through.”

That is a false argument, as all of those senators know. The blue slip tradition is just that, a tradition. It's not a set-in-stone Senate rule, and it can easily be observed, or not. Republicans know that particularly well, because when Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was in charge of the Judiciary Committee, he ignored them. While Leahy's choosing to ignore blue slips might end up angering Republicans, how much worse could it get? How much more could they obstruct than they already have? Observing the tradition is certainly a greater courtesy than Republicans were willing to extend to Democrats before 2007.

This fight is heightened over the fact that it's the federal judiciary we're talking about: lifetime appointments and judges who would preside for a generation. That's a legacy President Obama, Sen. Leahy and his fellow Democratic senators need to protect.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 12:32 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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