Bloomberg Law
Jan. 29, 2019, 10:10 PM

Graham Holds Line on Blue Slips for District Court Nominees

Patrick L. Gregory
Patrick L. Gregory

A tradition allowing senators to reject federal district court nominees from their states by withholding “blue slip” approvals will remain in place, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said.

But the South Carolina Republican hasn’t decided whether he will require blue slips for appeals court nominees.

Graham, who took the reins of the panel from Iowa’s Charles Grassley, said at a committee business meeting Jan. 29 that he will meet with Republicans before deciding the appeals court question.

Forty-four district court nominees and U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr were on the agenda for the session, the first of Graham’s tenure. But votes on their appointments were all held over until the next meeting on Feb. 7.

A one-week holdover is customary if the opposing party still has questions about a nominee. The panel’s top ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, expressed concerns about whether the Trump nominee would be transparent in handling Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“Democrats remain concerned about whether Bill Barr would allow Congress and the American people to view any report submitted by Special Counsel Mueller in its entirety,” Feinstein said. “This is the biggest issue facing our country and the American people deserve to know Mueller’s findings and analysis without any filter.”

Blue Slip Controversy

Blue slips are blue questionnaires on which senators mark their approval or opposition to a federal judicial appointee from their home state. Depending on the party in power in the Senate, they could be used to block nominees.

Democrats, who’ve been the Senate minority since 2015, criticized Grassley for holding hearings on appeals court nominees despite blue slip objections.

Feinstein noted at the meeting that four current appeals court nominees lack support from their home state senators. When blue slips are honored, it encourages the White House to work with lawmakers , she said.

Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, complained about what he saw as departures from past norms concerning judicial nominees.

Those include the nomination of candidates deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association and the scheduling of confirmation hearings while the Senate is in recess, he said.

President Donald Trump has seen the confirmation of 85 appeals and district court nominees. That number includes 30 appeals court nominees, which set a record for a president in the first two years of his term.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Crawley at; Jessie Kokrda Kamens at