February 05, 2009

Leahy Mum on "Blue Slip" Policy

Congressional Quarterly has a new blog called Legal Beat that covers "the relationship between Congress and the courts."  Legal Beat notes that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is being very non-committal on whether he will continue the informal committee tradition of the "blue slip" policy.  Leahy honored the tradition during the last Congress when a Republican was in office, but now that a Democrat is in office his tune may be changing.  A reversal in this policy could have dramatic effects on Republican efforts to oppose Obama's judicial nominees.

As we have noted, the Fourth Circuit is particularly vulnerable to a dramatic shift to the left.  Legal Beat notes the effect that a reversal in "blue slip" policy could have on the Fourth Circuit:
"If Leahy decides not to observe the blue slip practice as scrupulously as he did for the last two years, there could be a dramatic impact, particularly on appellate courts. For example, of the four vacancies on the conservative 15-member 4th Circuit, President Obama ostensibly will nominate one candidate from North Carolina (one Republican senator) and one from South Carolina (two Republican senators)."
If Leahy does decide to abandon the "blue slip" policy, Republicans will need to look no further than Leahy's own words to paint him as a hypocrite.  In 2003, Leahy said, 
"The Republican majority has shown a corrosive and raw-edged willingness to change, bend and even break the rules that they themselves followed before when the judicial nominees involved were a Democratic president's choices, instead of a Republican president's choices."
With huge Democratic majorities, the "blue slip" is one of the few tools Republicans have to oppose Obama's judicial nominees.  Leahy knows this.  The question is, will politics and power trump principle?