Earlier this month, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) announced that he would unilaterally veto Judge Elissa Cadish’s nomination to a federal judgeship in Nevada because she once refused to misrepresent the law in a way that favored the NRA. Heller believes he can carry the gun lobby’s water in this way because of an odd Senate tradition called “blue slips,” which currently allows either one of a judicial nominee’s home state senators to prevent that nominee from receiving a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.
This tradition, however, does not exactly have a longstanding pedigree. During the Reagan and the first Bush Administration, the blue slip tradition did indeed allow home state senators to block a judicial nominee, but only if both of these senators agreed. Indeed, this rule remained in effect until 1995, when Senate Republicans unilaterally changed it to make it easier to block President Clinton’s nominees with only one objecting senator — only to change back to Reagan Era rules once George W. Bush took office.
Heller now seems to think that, because a Democratic president is back in office, he should have the same power to unilaterally veto nominees that didn’t exist under Ronald Reagan or most of George W. Bush’s term. Fortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) apparently thinks otherwise:
Reid, the Senate majority leader, said he plans to ask Leahy to bypass the blue slip process in this case and move forward with the Cadish nomination. He said the two could meet Thursday.
Reid said his staff has compiled clippings and other material on Cadish that he plans to show to Leahy.
“Leahy is a traditionalist around here,” Reid said. “I’ve gotten all the articles about this together and am going to visit with Pat and go over it, but I don’t think he will do it.“
There’s nothing wrong with being a traditionalist, but there’s also no real tradition giving Heller a unilateral veto over nominees. If one set of rules were good enough for Ronald Reagan, than they should be good enough for Barack Obama.