February 20, 2018
It'll take years for the dust to settle on the Trump presidency -- and when it does, conservatives will have a lot more to celebrate than they thought. A lot of the credit for that will belong to one man: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The Judiciary Committee Chair has been the unsung hero of the Trump administration, working quietly to help the White House confirm more solid strict constructionists to the bench than any president in history. And he shows no signs of slowing down.
You can usually measure how successful conservatives are by the level of the other side's outrage. In the Senate, Democrats are roiling over the long list of the Judiciary Chair's accomplishments. Last week, while Senator Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) party dragged its feet on immigration, Grassley was more than happy to fill the void with another slate of judicial nominees. On Thursday, the chairman moved another conservative winner out of committee and onto the floor -- putting judge Michael Brennan one step closer to a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Not surprisingly, Democrats are pulling their hair out at the pace of Grassley's votes. Now, they're desperately grasping for something to put the brakes on this train of nominees.
What they've settled on is the tradition known as the "blue slip." Since 1917, it's been common courtesy for the Senate's Judiciary Chair to send an evaluation form of sorts to the nominee's home-town senators. They could return it, signaling their willingness to hold a hearing, or withhold it -- usually grinding the progress on that nomination to a halt. Democrats, who never met an obstructionist tool they didn't like, have been using their slips to slow down the president's judicial nominees. That worked for a while, until it became clear to Grassley that Senate liberals were trying to use the slips as a veto.
On Brennan's nomination, Grassley decided to move forward without the green light from Wisconsin's senators. "The Democrats seriously regret that they abolished the filibuster, as I warned them they would. But they can't expect to use the blue slip courtesy in its place. That's not what the blue slip is meant for." Ranking Judiciary Democrat Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) was outraged. "This basically says we don't care which state you represent -- you're irrelevant as senators, We'll forget the 100 years of senators having involvement." Actually, senators have involvement -- it's called voting. If they're upset about not having enough votes, win back the majority. Until then, don't try to hijack the process.
Ironically, Grassley's office pointed out, "In the case that's before us, the White House consulted with both Wisconsin senators. The White House considered two candidates suggested by Senator Baldwin, but the president opted for Judge Brennan. That's the president's prerogative under the Constitution." As for the blue slip, it cuts both ways. "Leahy refused to hold hearings on six of George W. Bush's circuit nominees even though all of them had the support of their home-state senators," the spokesman went on. Now, when the shoe is on the other foot, they want to pretend that a Senate tradition is a hard and fast rule, which it's not.
In the meantime, conservatives have plenty to be happy about where the courts are concerned. Before the month is out, Trump may even rack up another victory: Ryan Bounds, his nominee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Whether or not that progress continues is up to us. The president can't balance the courts without a majority. So, make sure that factors in your decision-making this November.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.