Hatch Ignores 'Blue Slips,' Schedules Hearing

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (search) says he will schedule judiciary committee hearings for six Michigan judges despite the protests of Michigan's Democratic senators.

Hatch, a Utah Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter Friday to Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow (search) saying he will schedule hearings for four nominees to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and two nominees for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. All six were nominated by President Bush.

Levin and Stabenow had no immediate comment Monday. They have been blocking the hearings using a measure known as the "blue slip," referring to the blue paper senators use to tell the Judiciary Committee whether they approve of a nominee.

Levin and Stabenow were blocking the hearings because former Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., blue-slipped two of President Clinton's nominees, including one who went four years without a hearing. They want the White House to establish a bipartisan committee to nominate judges.

Hatch said Levin and Stabenow are misusing their authority.

"To my knowledge, at no time during these extensive consultations have you articulated any specific objections to any of the nominees for the Michigan vacancies," Hatch wrote.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) hears cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Traditionally, the court has included four judges from each of those states.

Bush's nominees for the appeals court are federal court judge David McKeague (search), Wayne County Court judge Susan Neilson (search) and state appeals court judges Richard Griffin and Henry Saad. His nominations for the district court are Midland County Judge Thomas Ludington and Wayne County Judge Daniel Ryan.

Hatch has ignored a home state senator's blue slip before. In May, he overrode the objections of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and allowed the Judiciary Committee to vote on the nomination of Los Angeles judge Carolyn Kuhl (search) to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The full Senate has not yet approved Kuhl's nomination.