Policy Watch has written plenty about Sen. Richard Burr’s stonewalling of a nominee whom he’d previously supported for the federal bench in eastern North Carolina – a turnabout that’s left many scratching their heads.
Particularly disconcerting is the senator’s apparent refusal to heed his own words uttered back in 2005, when he told his colleagues that “denying judicial nominees of both parties, who seek to serve their country, an up-or-down vote, simply is not fair. It was certainly not the intention of our Founding Fathers when they designed and created this very institution.”
Yet that’s exactly what he’s done by failing to return the blue slip for Jennifer May-Parker, raising doubts that Burr really means what he says.
Now it appears that Burr and others in the U.S. Senate who’ve resorted to the blue slip as their own type of filibuster have pushed too far.
According to this report, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will ask the Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to process nominations and send them on to a committee hearing without approval from both on a nominee’s home state senators, effectively ending the blue slip tradition.
Fudge and other members of the Black Caucus say GOP Senators including Marco Rubio of Florida and Richard Burr of North Carolina used the “blue slip” procedure to block the nominations of qualified African-Americans they previously endorsed for judgeships.
Rubio said he switched his stance on William Thomas’ nomination of because he had questions about Thomas’ judicial temperament and willingness to impose appropriate sentences. Burr has not explained his reasons for withholding his support for Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination.
Congressional Black Caucus members blame their actions on politics.
“They are abusing the process just because they have the power to do it,” says Fudge, adding that the Black Caucus will ask Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont to suspend use of the “blue slip” custom, as has been done in the past.
North Carolina Democratic Rep. G. K. Butterfield, a Black Caucus member, said the U.S. Senate has failed to act on more than a dozen of President Obama’s African-American nominees, and the strategy is being used to “keep quality African-Americans from getting confirmed.”
“This is a matter of particular concern this year,” agreed Eleanor Holmes Norton, another Black Caucus member who serves as the District of Columbia’s non-voting Democratic delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. “More than any other thing a president can do, an appointment to the bench can cement his legacy.”