Blue-slips

BLUE-SLIPS…. The NYT had a good editorial yesterday, slamming Senate Republicans for threatening to filibuster President Obama’s judicial nominees. These are the very same GOP lawmakers, the Times noted, who said filibusters of judicial nominees are “outrageous” and unconstitutional.

The National Review‘s Ed Whelan, not surprisingly, took issue with the editorial, accusing the paper of making “distortions.”

1. The editorial contends that Republican senators are now “threatening … filibusters if Mr. Obama’s nominees are not to their liking”, and it alleges that this threat is “at odds with their previous views on the subject.” But the Republican senators’ letter does not threaten filibusters for the purpose of defeating judical [sic] nominees “not to their liking”. It threatens a filibuster if Democrats trample the traditional blue-slip privilege.

2. As to the blue-slip privilege: The editorial states that Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy “must decide whether to follow the Senate’s ‘blue slip’ tradition, which holds that judicial nominees should not move forward without their home-state senators’ support.” Two sentences later, it asserts that “Republicans abandoned them [blue slips] when they controlled the Senate under Mr. Bush.” That assertion is a fantasy, an ignorant statement, or an outright lie. All that Senate Republicans are seeking is maintenance of the same blue-slip practice that they afforded Democrats Democrats successfully insisted on* under President Bush. There is nothing that Leahy “must decide” — unless he wants to trample the blue-slip privilege.

Now, I was planning to go point by point, highlighting every error of fact and judgment in Whelan’s piece, but as it turns out, Kyle at Right Wing Watch beat me to it. Seeing no reason to reinvent the wheel, I’ll just refer you to Kyle’s fine work.

I would add just one related point about the evolution of blue-slip objections.

* In 1998, for no special reason, Orrin Hatch decided that only one senator needed to object to a nomination. This made it easier for Republicans to obstruct Bill Clinton’s nominees.

* In 2001, when one of their own became president, Hatch suddenly reversed course and decided that it should take two objections after all. That made it harder for Democrats to obstruct George Bush’s nominees.

* In early 2003, Hatch went even further: senatorial objections were merely advisory, he said. Even if both senators objected to a nomination, it would still go to the floor for a vote.

* A few weeks later, yet another barrier was torn down: Hatch did away with a longtime rule that said at least one member of the minority had to agree in order to end discussion about a nomination and move it out of committee.

Whelan wants to talk about Democrats “trampling the blue-slip privilege”? Really?

Update: For the record, Ed Whelan responded to Kyle’s argument late yesterday.