A group of Congressional Black Caucus members led by their chair, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), plan to pressure their colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee to stop giving Republican senators a unilateral veto over President Obama’s judicial nominees. Currently, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) honors a practice known as “blue slips,” a relic of a largely defunct patronage system that allows senators to single-handedly block judicial nominees from their own state.
Sen. Leahy’s refusal to abandon the blue slip rule led to a series of recent embarrassments. The White House recently gave up on its nomination of William Thomas, a gay African American judge nominated to the federal bench in Florida, because Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) used the blue slip process to veto Thomas. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is currently blocking a nominee that he personally recommended to President Obama in 2009. And several Democratic members of Congress, including civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), recently slammed President Obama for agreeing to a package of Georgia judicial nominees that were largely hand-picked by the state’s Republican senators. As Lewis noted, those nominees “include persons who have advocated in favor of Georgia’s voter ID laws and for including the Confederate Battle Emblem as part of the Georgia State Flag.”
When President George W. Bush was in office, then-Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) abandoned the blue slip process in favor of a more flexible system that allowed nominees to move forward “provided that the Administration  engaged in pre-nomination consultation with both of the home-state Senators.” Leahy, for his part, admits that “other Chairmen have taken a more flexible view of the blue slips.”