Changing the Rules

Professor Bainbridge links to this in-depth article about how the fight over judicial nominees got to where it is. Here’s a bit of history I wasn’t aware of:

As a courtesy, the Judiciary Committee has long given additional weight in the approval process to the votes of the nominees’ home-state senators (even if they aren’t on the committee), recorded on slips of blue paper. In 1995, Hatch began enforcing a rule that no nomination would be voted on without two positive blue slips. He used the rule to slow down some Clinton appointments, including a three-year delay for Helene White’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit. Now, with the Democrats in a position to use the blue slips for delay, Hatch announced that the committee would begin to act with only one blue slip in favor of a nominee.

Next, Hatch broke with the tradition of considering only one controversial nominee at a time by holding hearings for three nominees to appeals courts, John Roberts for the D.C. Circuit and Deborah Cook and Jeffrey Sutton for the Sixth Circuit. To slow down Cook and Roberts, the Democrats tried to invoke Rule IV of the Senate’s procedures, which permits the minority party to filibuster during a committee hearing. But Senator Hatch declared this action invalid and pressed on.

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