Another lesson learned today: never give Republicans the benefit of the doubt. It’s not as if I make a habit of this, but every once in a while I go soft. And it always comes back to haunt me.
Here’s the story. For the six years he was in charge of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy—a Democrat—maintained the blue slip tradition. That is, if home-state Republicans objected to a judge nominated by President Obama, the nomination got pulled. That was very fair-minded of him! When Chuck Grassley took over after the Republican wave of 2014, he naturally maintained the same rule since he too liked the idea of Republicans being able to block Obama’s nominees. The question was: would Grassley stick to this rule when it meant giving Democrats the ability to block Trump’s nominees?
I predicted he wouldn’t, because Republicans have always played games with the blue slip rule to favor their own cause. But then I hedged a bit last month. And so did Leahy, who noted that Grassley had promised to respect the blue slip tradition. “I trust him to keep his word,” Leahy said. That sure was stupid:
Grassley rips up ‘blue slip’ for a pair of Trump court picks
The Iowa Republican announced Thursday that he is going ahead with a confirmation hearing for a nominee to the powerful appellate courts despite the objections of a Democrat who had been blocking the nomination for months….Grassley says he has scheduled hearings for David Stras, a nominee to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Stras’ home-state senator, said earlier this year that he would not return the so-called blue slip for Stras because of his conservative ideology.
“The Democrats seriously regret that they abolished the filibuster, as I warned them they would,” Grassley said in his floor speech. “But they can’t expect to use the blue slip courtesy in its place. That’s not what the blue slip is meant for.”
For more than two decades Republicans have flipped the blue-slip rule whenever it favored their own party. If a Democrat was president, they supported it. If a Republican was president, they ditched it. Now they’ve flipped yet again. Big surprise.
No response yet from Leahy. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.