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Chuck Grassley's office says he's in charge of judicial nominee 'blue slip' tool, after Mitch McConnell pledges to kill it

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley's office said Wednesday he is reviewing the chamber's "blue slip" tradition. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley's office said Wednesday he is reviewing the chamber's "blue slip" tradition, after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to eliminate the tool used to block judicial nominees.

"The chairman of the Judiciary Committee will determine how to apply the blue slip courtesy for federal judicial nominees, as has always been the practice," said Taylor Foy, Grassley spokesman, in an email to the Washington Examiner. "Over the years, chairmen have applied the courtesy differently, but the spirit of consultation has always remained."

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, regardless of party affiliation, according to a Congressional Research Service report detailing the blue slip policy. The senators historically have had the opportunity to block the nominee from receiving a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote.

"Senator Grassley has said that he expects senators and the president to continue engaging in consultation when selecting judicial nominees, and that, as in the past, any abuses of the courtesy would be addressed on a case-by-case basis," Foy said. "He has also said on many occasions that the full Senate should dedicate more time to considering nominees that have already been reported out of the Judiciary Committee."

He noted that the Judiciary Committee has sent 17 judicial nominees to the full Senate for a vote, but the chamber has confirmed only seven so far.

McConnell's decision to talk about scrapping the "blue slip" tradition may indicate his desire to shift attention away from his role in confirming Trump's nominees. McConnell told The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes that he wanted to scrap the blue slip tool but would refuse to overturn the "30 hours rule" providing 30 hours of debate on a given judicial nominee before he or she can be confirmed.

No Trump judicial nominee has been blocked through the blue slip tool, although Minnesota Sen. Al Franken decided to use the process as part of his effort to block David Stras' nomination to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last month.

A Republican aide in the Senate told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that the Senate guidelines requiring 30 hours of debate, which McConnell is refusing to change, have proven to be a big obstacle for Trump's nominees.

"The first six waves of the president's judicial nominees will get through the committee by the end of the year," the GOP aide said. "The issue is not the blue slip or the pace of the committee, the issue is the Senate leadership does not keep the Senate in session for more than three days a week and we go into recess like we are right now when 10 nominees are pending on the floor."

McConnell is under pressure from conservative groups and conservative legal experts regarding the Senate's pace of judicial confirmations.