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Advocates plead with Senate Judiciary Committee chair not to change rules to aid Trump nominees

Sen. Richard Burr refused to return his “blue slip” for two African-American Obama nominees over an eight year period. Now he supports the nomination of controversial conservative Thomas Farr.

Sen. Thom Tillis serves on the Judiciary Committee and could block Brennan and other objectionable nominees.

Advocates from 18 states, including North Carolina, descended on the Des Moines offices of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) yesterday to urge him not to destroy a 100-year-old Senate tradition that would prevent Senate Republicans from rubber-stamping President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees without the approval of home-state senators.

The Senate is preparing to confirm federal appeals court nominee Michael Brennan to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the objection of one of his home-state senators, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The blue slip rule has long required that both home state senators consent to a judicial nominee in order to move the nomination forward.

This bipartisan rule has always been honored by Democratic Senate leaders, most recently during the Obama administration. In fact, a previous nominee for this seat nominated by President Barack Obama was never confirmed because her Republican home-state senator objected. Here in North Carolina, Senator Richard Burr refused to return his blue slip throughout the entire Obama presidency on two different nominees nominated to serve on the federal district court for the state’s Eastern District. Either nominees would have been the first Black judge to serve on the court in its history.

Now, however, Republican leadership wants to dismantle this time-honored rule by forcing Brennan’s nomination process to move ahead over Baldwin’s objections.

“Chuck Grassley has been in the Senate for more than three decades, but it’s clear that his legacy will be defined by his willingness to debase the Senate Judiciary Committee to help Donald Trump push narrow-minded elitists onto lifetime seats on the federal bench,” said Drew Courtney, vice president for communications and research at People for the American Way. “Now more than ever we need a Senate that will stand up for the checks and balances that protect our rights and the rule of law. Iowa deserves an independent senator in Washington. In Chuck Grassley, they have a rubber stamp.”

“An unprecedented number of federal judicial vacancies are being filled at an accelerated pace with ideological nominees,” said Jody Rabhan, director of Washington Operations at the National Council of Jewish Women. “We’re here to tell Sen. Grassley that our federal courts should not be packed with narrow-minded elitists who will roll the clock back on protections for historically disadvantaged groups while favoring corporations and the powerful. We know courts matter, and we’re thrilled to join Iowa leaders and advocates from across the country to let Sen. Grassley know that the Senate must consider diverse, independent, and fair nominees for these critical lifetime appointments.”

“Sen. Grassley’s constituents are speaking out about his unique role as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” saidCedric Lawson, field manager at The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “They know that their senator has the power to be an independent check on a dangerous precedent, but he is refusing to play that critical role. Instead he is acting as a rubber stamp and breaking long standing Senate practices to rush through extreme and unqualified judicial nominees.”

“This longstanding tradition gives a voice to the people most affected by a judicial nomination,” said Jamal R. Watkins, vice president for civic engagement at NAACP. “Senators who would know a nominee best can ensure their constituents are getting the best judges the state has to offer. It’s a 100-year-old tradition because it makes very good sense. To undermine it or use it at will continues the pattern of disregarding vulnerable communities, communities of color and those who are left out of the elite ruling class—a pattern that the NAACP has been fighting to dismantle for decades.”

“The Senate has always been the legislative chamber that prided itself on comity, deliberation and the ability to work together in a bipartisan manner on behalf of the American people,” said Michele Jawando,vice president at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Engaged advocates, leaders, and citizens are joining together from across the country to fight for a tradition that moderated the Senate, represented to the will of all people, and ensured that fair minded constitutionalists, as opposed to narrow-minded prejudiced elites, are confirmed to the federal judiciary. We are proud to stand with them and remind this senate of their constitutional duties to the American people.”

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