Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono insisted Friday that the Senate "respect" the "blue-slip" process regarding judicial nominations and hinted at its utility as a tool to fight the Trump administration.
Under the Senate's blue slip procedure, a state's senators are consulted by the White House before a president nominates a judge from that state, with no attention given to party affiliation, explains a Congressional Research Service report detailing the blue slip policy. The home-state senators then have the opportunity to block a nominee from receiving a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote.
"Until I got to the nomination of Judge Gorsuch and so much preparation time, I really wasn't familiar with the blue-slip process," said Hirono, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at the American Constitution Society's national convention. "But it's time-honored. Blue slips enable home-state senators to ensure that the federal judges serving in their states are highly qualified."
"We cannot become a rubber stamp for the president's nominees and we must fight to prevent [the] erosion of quality and independence of the federal judiciary."
Conservative legal scholars recently have begun openly discussing the possibility that Senate Republicans should scrap or modify the "blue slip" tradition to bypass expected Democratic obstruction and confirm Trump's nominees.
Hirono's public opposition to such strategic action by her Republican colleagues likely previews political fights about the judicial nomination process that soon could be headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee.