If there’s one thing on which conservatives and liberals alike can agree about President Trump, it’s that he’s fulfilled his campaign promise to nominate highly qualified and principled judges to all levels of the federal courts.
Justice Neil Gorsuch is the most prominent example of an impressive nominee committed to interpreting laws and statutes as they are written, not as he’d like them to be.
President Trump has nominated more than 40 other such men and women to lower courts.
But Senate Democrats are desperate to stop the president from fulfilling his promise to American voters, which is why they’re abusing Senate rules to engage in an unprecedented campaign to delay and obstruct the confirmation of the president’s highly qualified nominees.
Just how bad has this obstruction been? When President Trump took office, he faced more judicial vacancies (105) than four of his five predecessors—twice as many as President Obama and three times as many as President Reagan. Thanks to the delays imposed by the minority party, there are now more vacancies (139) than when he was inaugurated. Democratic obstruction isn’t just delaying votes; it’s creating a backlog.
Democrats are creating this gridlock by abusing two Senate procedures. The first is what is called the “blue slip” process, a courtesy available to senators from the home state of judicial nominees to write a letter to the Judiciary Committee approving or disapproving of the nominee. A positive blue slip does not guarantee that a nominee will confirmed, nor does a negative one ensure the opposite—the letter is only a recommendation. But the committee generally waits for the blue slips to be turned in before moving on with confirmation hearings, and Democrats are using this courtesy to hold the process hostage.
Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have failed to turn in a blue slip for Eighth Circuit nominee Justice David Strass, currently a justice on Minnesota’s state supreme court. Minnesota’s justices are elected to their position, and in 2012, Strass received about 56 percent of the vote. Compare that to the 53 percent Franken received in 2014—the senator is blocking a nominee whom his state’s voters like more than him.
Similarly, Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet is delaying a vote on the president’s nominee for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Alison Eid of the Colorado State Supreme Court. To say that Justice Eid is popular would be an understatement: 75 percent of Coloradoans voted for her to retain her current seat. Senator Bennet (re-elected last year with 50 percent of the vote) is playing the delay game nonetheless.
Democrats have also obstructed the confirmation of highly qualified judges by using a rule that allows the minority party to demand 30 hours of debate on the floor for presidential appointments and judicial nominations. Democrats are using this tactic at every turn—not because they’re interested in debate, but because they’re interested in delay.
Consider how they handled the nomination of Judge David Nye, first appointed by President Obama to the United States District Court for the District of Idaho. (You read that correctly: President Obama nominated him.) After Democrats delayed long enough for that nomination to expire, President Trump re-nominated Nye. Finally, in July, Democrats joined Republicans to end debate on Nye. Even after that, though, Democrats continued to delay confirmation by insisting on 30 hours of floor debate. After the debate, Nye was confirmed—unanimously!
In other words, Democrats delayed a vote on a nominee all of them wanted to vote for! That’s just the sort of thing they’re willing to do to frustrate the will of American voters.
These delays on judges are part of a larger trend, as Democratic senators have stalled the confirmation process for other important, non-judicial positions. The Department of Justice still needs a Solicitor General because Democrats haven’t taken action on the extraordinarily qualified nominee, Noel Francisco.
There is no Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights because left-wing activist groups have pressured Democrats to #Resist the president’s nominee, Eric Drieband. The same goes for the president’s choice for general counsel for the EPA, Andrew Wheeler.
Democrats are abusing instruments of courtesy available to minority parties, taking procedures designed as shields and turning them into swords. But Republicans can stop them. They should abandon the blue slip process—which is a tradition, not a rule—and adopt a proposal, put forward by Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., to limit floor debate to a maximum of eight hours These simple changes will ensure that the Senate can fulfill their promise to protect the Constitution and defend the rule of law.
Will Republicans regret these rule changes when they’re in the minority party?
No, because only Democrats have abused these rules in these ways. Democrats are the only ones who have been cynical enough to do that.