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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
When filibuster reform for President Obama's nominees exposed the other ways Republicans could obstruct judicial nominations, Sen. Patrick Leahy said that he didn't think there was abuse of procedures, specifically in using their "blue slip" ability to either refuse to assist in nominating a judge for their home state, or blocking a nomination.
"I assume no one will abuse the blue slip process like some have abused the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees on the floor of the Senate," Leahy said. "As long as the blue slip process is not being abused by home state senators, then I will see no reason to change that tradition."
Despite the fact thatplenty of evidence that Republicans are and have been abusing the process for the whole of Obama's presidency is staring Leahy in the face, he's refusing to acknowledge it. In response to a New York Times editorial that ran in a Vermont paper pressing him to reform the procedure, Leahy penned this op-ed.
The judicial confirmation process in the Senate has grown increasingly difficult. If a president does not consult with home state senators to seek their advice on nominees, it is far less likely the nominee will have their support and be confirmed. The blue slip is just a piece of paper and could be eliminated today, but that would not change the importance of home state senators’ support for confirming judicial nominees to the states they represent. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I have worked tirelessly to get judicial nominees confirmed. I cannot recall a single judicial nominee being confirmed over the objection of his or her home state senators. The blue slip process reflects this reality, and those who care about the courts and who want qualified judges confirmed should not overlook this fact. […]

[…] The blue slip process empowers senators to have input with presidents about those who will serve their constituents. It also ensures that the eventual nominees will have home state support in the confirmation process.

The process is being abused, and contrary to Leahy's assertion that keeping blue slips "ensures that the eventual nominees will have home state support in the confirmation process" is just plain hogwash. Right now Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is holding up the nomination of  Jennifer May-Parker—a candidate he recommended to Obama in 2009. And he refuses to explain why this candidate, who he said back in 2009 had "the requisite qualifications to serve with distinction," has lost his support. He's refusing to provide his blue slip to Leahy so the committee can move forward. Republican obstruction is also creating rifts among Democrats, as in the case of Obama's nominees for Georgia. The only way he could fill a number of vacancies in the state was by agreeing to a couple of horrendous picks that state's senators were insisting upon. In order to even get those Republicans to play ball, he nominated two candidates who are anti-choice, anti-civil rights, and antithetical to everything he stands for. That's because the Republicans still have the power over what nominations move forward. In Texas, there are nine vacancies, seven of have been empty so long they've reached judicial emergency status. And Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn refuse even to provide names to President Obama.

The White House is frustrated, with Obama's top nomination's advisor calling the blue slip process "more problematic than the filibuster because it can act as a silent, unaccountable veto." Fellow Democrats in Congress are frustrated. Allies in the advocacy groups are frustrated. President Obama has just 20 months left to establish his legacy in the courts, something Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to prevent.

Everyone seems to be frustrated by Republican blue slip abuse except Sen. Leahy, who continues to insist that there's no problem here, move along now. There is a problem here. And Leahy is the one person who can fix it. It's about time he did so.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:14 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (37+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:14:52 PM PDT

    •  This comment is truly irritating., (0+ / 0-)

      as it shows complete disregard for nuance or balance.  Let me suggest that you look at this:

      Leahy has held progressive political positions that are generally in line with those of the state. He has generally supported abortion right... is outspoken in his support for affirmative action.. has been one of the most gay rights-friendly members of Congress...

      ... spoke strongly against a proposed constitutional ban on flag burning and on its implications for freedom of speech and expression.... rejects school prayer initiatives and plans for abstinence-only sex education... has called for a moratorium on the death penalty and more DNA testing for death row inmates... supports rehabilitation as the goal of prisons and providing treatment instead of punishment for first time offenders... has generally supported gun control, including requiring background checks at gun shows and allowing for lawsuits against firearms manufacturers...

      ...has stated the importance of increasing the prevalence of public health care during times of economic downturn... voted to increase Medicare benefits and to allow this organization to negotiate lower-priced, bulk prescriptions from pharmaceutical manufacturers... has broken with Democratic leadership in supporting allowing states to make bulk drug purchases on their own... has consistently voted to uphold Social Security and has opposed school vouchers.

      ... has been a strong supporter of environmental policy.

      ... has consistently supported progressive [tax] rates... has rejected proposals to remove the Estate Tax and Alternative Minimum Tax, and he has spoken out strongly against cutting taxes for the wealthy... has strongly supported the rights of employees, and has voted to increase the minimum wage and allow for more union organization...

      .. was a long-time critic of the Iraq War... has been critical of the PATRIOT Act, even though he has voted to reauthorize altered versions of it...

      ... has always opposed the opening and operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[26][27]

      Really, if you don't know anything on a subject, you shouldn't say anything about it.

      Play chess for the Kossacks on Join the site, then the group at

      by rhutcheson on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 10:07:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I guess Leahy is sticking with his tribe (5+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:27:40 PM PDT

  •  Just curious - don't know if (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Lots of companies will ask for help from the existing employees when vacancies occur in other areas. Don't know if judges works the same way, but maybe Pres. Obama can ask a couple of existing judges say from very liberal CA to "fill in" in Texas until the nominations get through. And then "fill" the CA vacancies.

    Again, I don't know if this will work - government rules can be so stupid sometimes.

    •  Alternatively... (0+ / 0-)

      How many states have two D Senators? Couldn't we just nominate from those states only? Imagine the Republican outrage!

      Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

      by Boundegar on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:48:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, the question is about nominating judges (0+ / 0-)

        to serve on the Federal courts inside that particular state, and the blue slips have to come from the Senators from that state.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 10:10:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Good Ole' Boys aren't willing to admit that (5+ / 0-)

    they're being played -- that the new members of the club are fundamentally cheating.

    /oy vey

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:57:48 PM PDT

  •  Vermont Dems deserve better...n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Capt Crunch, commonmass, Blueslide, NonnyO
  •  He may have a point (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    President Barack Obama has outpaced his predecessor, George W. Bush, when it comes to confirming judges to federal courts.

    As of Friday, Obama has placed 44 new judges on circuit courts and 191 on district courts. At the same time in Bush's presidency, on April 4, 2006, he had confirmed 43 circuit judges and 189 district court judges.

    New Republic: So are the left-wing blogs as bad as the Tea Party ones in this case? -------------------------Chuck Schumer: Left-wing blogs are the mirror image. They just have less credibility and less clout.

    by AlexDrew on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 01:58:30 PM PDT

    •  That's because of the number of vacancies. (4+ / 0-)

      Not because the GOP is somehow being less obstructive. The tactic they have settled on of using the blue slip process is relatively new, having been instigated in the last few months.

      Obama is entitled to fill as many seats as there are vacancies. That's what the Constitution says.

      •  Okay. Every Prez feels this way. (0+ / 0-)
        Obama is entitled to fill as many seats as there are vacancies. That's what the Constitution says.

        New Republic: So are the left-wing blogs as bad as the Tea Party ones in this case? -------------------------Chuck Schumer: Left-wing blogs are the mirror image. They just have less credibility and less clout.

        by AlexDrew on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:18:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Don't think so (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happymisanthropy, hbk, Nailbanger

      Obama had and has more judicial and administrative vacancy's to fill than any other chief executive ever.GOP obstruction is still responsible for horrendous backlogs in Federal courts and bureaucratic gridlock.Are you really  trying to defend that?Or just muddy the water?

      'The tyranny of the ignoramuses is absolute and inescapable' A.Einstein

      •  From all the whining that goes on (0+ / 0-)

        I expected the Bush 43 vs BHO numbers to be double. In the end, its the raw number that matters. But if it was a 98% confirmation rate, we would still bitch. Remember, it was the GOP in 2005 who first proposed the nuclear option. This is not new.

        New Republic: So are the left-wing blogs as bad as the Tea Party ones in this case? -------------------------Chuck Schumer: Left-wing blogs are the mirror image. They just have less credibility and less clout.

        by AlexDrew on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:17:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry,still wrong (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It's not ''raw numbers'' that matter,it's a functional government.After all the dissembling and bluster,one political party of two is in the serious business of killing our republic for their plutocratic owners.They blow enough smoke up our kilts (or skirts as the case may be) about this,you don't need to help.

          'The tyranny of the ignoramuses is absolute and inescapable A.Einstein

          •  So when the GOP threatened the (0+ / 0-)

            nuclear option in 2005, they were right?

            In the 2005 Senate, Republicans held 55 seats and the Democrats held 45 including Jim Jeffords, an independent from Vermont who caucused with the Democrats. Confirmation requires a plurality of votes, and the Republicans could easily confirm their nominees if brought to the floor. Earlier in 2005, Democrats had blocked the nomination of 10 of George W. Bush's nominees, saying they were too conservative and that Republicans had blocked many of their nominees back in the 1990s. Frist then threatened to use the nuclear option in response. Democrats warned that if Frist used the nuclear option they would shut down the Senate so that no business of any sort could be transacted.
            Read the entire entry. It gives the back and forth going back to Clinton 42.


            New Republic: So are the left-wing blogs as bad as the Tea Party ones in this case? -------------------------Chuck Schumer: Left-wing blogs are the mirror image. They just have less credibility and less clout.

            by AlexDrew on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:31:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes they were right (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AlexDrew, hbk, Simplify

              The filibuster as it is currently being used should not be kept in place.

              It doesn't matter if it sometimes benefits Republicans because when Republicans get majorities in all 3 branches they should be able to at least govern.

              It's going to help us because as long as the filibuster stays in place, Democrats won't be able to pass useful legislation.

              If we got rid of it in 2005 we'd have a lot of progressive stuff passed in the last few years.

              Republicans will kill the filibuster at the first opportunity. Lets just kill it now, get it over with and try to govern in 2016.

              When we stop putting leaders from the past up on pedestals and ignoring their flaws, we can start seeing our present leaders for what they really are.

              by PhillyJeff on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:37:27 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  PhillyJeff, I agree 110%. I just don't like it (0+ / 0-)

                when some around here pretend that all of this started on Jan. 20th 2009. I was hoping for the nuclear option in 2005.
                You win some, you lose some.

                New Republic: So are the left-wing blogs as bad as the Tea Party ones in this case? -------------------------Chuck Schumer: Left-wing blogs are the mirror image. They just have less credibility and less clout.

                by AlexDrew on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:56:09 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You're making stuff up. (3+ / 0-)

                  After switching targets--from judicial appointments themselves to the nuclear option that is needed to get rid of obstructionism--you're now blaming "some around here" for pretending something that didn't happen. The Dems so rarely filibustered judicial appointments that we now have Roberts and Alito on the SC doing almost (?) irreparable damage to our country. We never used the filibuster when we needed to. So most of us at DKos have been calling for its end since 2006--which uncoincidentally enough is when the Republicans became a minority in the Senate and started abusing it. If they hadn't been doing so, there would have been no need to get rid of it.
                  If you've got some quotes from some people "around here" to back up your assertion, please lay them on us, and I'll apologize.

                  "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

                  by bryduck on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 04:15:27 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Really!!!! Keep your apology. You are right. (0+ / 0-)

                    No one on Dkos has ever done that.

                    New Republic: So are the left-wing blogs as bad as the Tea Party ones in this case? -------------------------Chuck Schumer: Left-wing blogs are the mirror image. They just have less credibility and less clout.

                    by AlexDrew on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 04:37:11 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Justice is a Club Good or for the GOP, ax-handle (0+ / 0-)
    Club goods (also artificially scarce goods) are a type of good in economics, sometimes classified as a subtype of public goods that are excludable but non-rivalrous, at least until reaching a point where congestion occurs. These goods are often provided by a natural monopoly. Club goods have artificial scarcity.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:03:58 PM PDT

  •  The Blue Slip "process" IS the abuse. (6+ / 0-)

    ... Is it really so sacred for Democrats, too, that we can't reform it, another fusty rule of one of the world's least reasonably deliberative bodies?

    2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:04:38 PM PDT

    •  replace not repeal (0+ / 0-)

      you're right about reform -- some of the abuses could be resolved easily. For example, a time limit (say, 3 or 4 months after vacancy) for home state senator(s) to recommend a name, and a requirement that the Senator must provide a blue slip or withdraw the name and, unless he/she provides persuasive reasons for the withdrawal, will forfeit any future right to do so.    

      When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called "the People's Stick." ~ Mikhail Bakunin

      by Sick Semper on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 05:04:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  With respect, they could come up with a name. (0+ / 0-)

        Just needs to be anyone, right? Find the most contrary, obstinate, hard-nosed, spiteful SOB in the valley, and put her or his name forth.

        2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

        by TRPChicago on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 05:07:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Now Leahy - they're nearly all a waste of time. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Blueslide

    Sanders and Warren seem to be the only ones worth anything.

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell

    by accumbens on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:05:21 PM PDT

  •  Too many old men. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And I'm 61, I can say that.  Way too many old men.

    Think about the baby Jesus. Up in that tower, letting His hair down so that the three wise men could climb up and spin the dreidle and see if there's six more weeks of winter. -- Will and Grace

    by Rikon Snow on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:05:25 PM PDT

  •  Leahy should either lead or step down. (7+ / 0-)

    If he can't recognize the fact that they're running out the clock until they get a majority--very possible--which will result in no confirmations for the remainder of this Presidency, then he's either stupid, blind, naïve, or all three.

    The Republicans have wedded themselves to a fanatical ideology of opposition that pays no quarter to the functioning of government as we know it--or as Lehay "wishes" it should be.  They are not even partners  in our government at this point, but are simply making use of the procedural tools it offers simply to obstruct all legitimate efforts by the Executive to see Judges confirmed.  That is the ideology they have accepted and internalized over the last five years, and this is just another example of it. This is an abuse of power--an attempt to end run around the Constitution--and if it isn't stopped Leahy will go down in history as a weakling not willing to stand up to the abuse.

    It is Leahy's job as the head of the Judiciary Committee to assure that the confirmation process is not abused. If he can't do his job he needs to step down. Now, before it's too late.

  •  Yet another Old Guard Democrat (3+ / 0-)

    screwing things up.

    It's tough enough jousting with Republicans when you've got someone like this pulling you back.

  •  The Dems seem to have a death wish at every (5+ / 0-)

    level and have handed the GOP the clubs with which to administer their slow exit.  

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:09:16 PM PDT

  •  Poor Pat. Lost In Space. Again. (4+ / 0-)

    There's a BIG difference between 'abusing' as system and simply 'not using' it.   The Republican Senators aren't using the blue ticket system and there are no nominations to work with.  That's not abuse, Pat.  That's willful obstruction.  So drop the blue ticket system and get on with working on nominations, you fool.

  •  Senator Methuselah needs to step out (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of the cloak room and the board room and allow a little reality to shine in.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:12:34 PM PDT

  •  Please, Joan. The numbers say you are wrong. (0+ / 0-)
     Over the course of his presidency so far, Obama’s nominated 301 judges and gotten 237 confirmed. By this point in his presidency, Bush had nominated 267 judges and had 234 of them confirmed.

    As of April 4, Obama has gotten 44 circuit court judges and 191 district court judges confirmed. As of April 4, 2006, Bush had 43 circuit court and 189 district court judges confirmed.

    Source:  Washington Post

    Are there some nominations that are held up due to doctrinal disputes?  Sure, but that happens in every Administration.  

    If you get confused, listen to the music play - R. Hunter

    by SpamNunn on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:20:17 PM PDT

  •  Why is it always our side that doesn't have what (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Blueslide, TrueBlueDem, NonnyO

    it takes to effectively play this game of politics?  Say what you will about Repugs agenda, but once they have one, 99.9% of the time every last one of those fuckers does what needs to be done to get it done.  Dems are constantly tripping and falling all over their morals and principles.  

  •  Voting To Repeal Obamacare Umpteen Times (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Could probably calculate how many points have been added to the unemployment rate with their refusal to consider any of Obama's job plans. Refusing to extend unemployment. This bit of obstruction. The ads against these cretins just write themselves. Hard to fathom the talk that Democrats are going to have tough mid-terms. Reminds me of the old SNL skit during the Bush-Dukakis race. Dana Carvey playing Bush, mocking the Bush word salad that he was prone to. Jon Lovitz playing Dukakis turned to the camera and said "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy". I can't believe the Democrats are going to have loust midterms.

  •  While it's true that Obama and W Bush are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, Simplify

    at parity in terms of the absolute numbers of confirmations at this point in their respective presidencies, Obama trails Bush in two important respects: The vacancy rate has progressively increased under Obama, while having decreased substantially under W Bush. Second, the percentage of confirmed nominees under Bush at this point in his presidency was much higher than it has been under Obama. Working with a higher judicial vacancy rate, Obama has actually nominated about 35 more people than W Bush, but only has about the same number of confirmations. When you consider that Obama's nominees are largely centrist, while W Bush's nominees were very right wing (handpicked by the Federalist Society), the differences in treatment by the US Senate are quite stark.

    It's always darkest before it gets less dark.

    by Karma Electra on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:31:23 PM PDT

  •  As I have explained several times in the past: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Every Senator has a strong interest in maximizing the power of individual senators far beyond what was intended by the framers of the Constitution. Thus, they vote for a set of rules that cripples the body, while exalting the members.

    The US Senate is a fascinating case study in how to break a system by exploiting its procedural imperfections.

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:36:51 PM PDT

  •  This is what infuriates me (0+ / 0-)

    I expect 100% douchebaggery from the GOP (they never fail me). But why do democrats play footsie with them? Leahy, my Senator, should retire. VT can do better.

    -7.5 -7.28, Jesus was a socialist

    by Blueslide on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:39:50 PM PDT

  •  Party Pols Just bring More Of The Same (0+ / 0-)

    Party Pols Just bring more of the same thing

    "It's only a movie"--1960's era PR Man for B-grade Hollywood flicks

    by williamjustin on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:43:36 PM PDT

  •  If this is what seniority delivers, it's time for (0+ / 0-)

    a better Democrat in that seat.

    "Life is short, but long enough to get what's coming to you." --John Alton

    by Palafox on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 02:45:15 PM PDT

  •  Reid can fix it. Can Leahy as Committee Chair (0+ / 0-)

    One thing I think Republicans were correct on is that they didn't hand Committee Chairmanships out on a seniority basis as Democrats have continued to do.

    Leahy is a problem that won't go away until he is pushed out of that chair.

    I like him and I would push him because right now he is hurting me and my future.

  •  WTF... blaming the President??? (0+ / 0-)

    Even if it was true, he shouldn't throw the President under the bus.

    If a president does not consult with home state senators to seek their advice on nominees, it is far less likely the nominee will have their support and be confirmed.

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy;the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

    by CTMET on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 03:17:29 PM PDT

  •  McConnell will fix it! (0+ / 0-)

    Just give the GOP control of the Senate and see if the GOP Chair extends the same courtesy to any Democratic member.  LOL!

    I have some beautiful ocean front property in the middle of New Mexico for sale, too.

    Voters should select people to represent them in their government. People in government should not select people who may vote!

    by NM Ray on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 03:36:32 PM PDT

  •  The longer they stay... (1+ / 0-)

    ...the worse once progressive senators become. See Carl Levin opposing filibuster reform and Dianne Feinstein kissing up to the NSA (until she was being spied upon). When Orrin Hatch was Chairman of Judiciary he got rid of the blue slip nonsense. Leahy has had his moment in the sun and he thinks the Senate works fine like the old days. Its time for some new progressive blood from Vermont.

  •  Longest-serving sitting senator (0+ / 0-)

    Leahy's been in the Senate since 1975, longer than any other sitting senator. That breeds institutional conservatism.

  •  Obvious Washington General is obvious (0+ / 0-)


    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 04:46:46 PM PDT

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