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Richard Burr 2This week’s LOL, through-the-looking-glass moment in conservative politics revolves around the antiquated Senate “blue slip” process whereby home state Senators like North Carolina’s own Richard Burr can unilaterally and without explanation block federal court nominees — even ones they’ve endorsed previously to the President.

As Think Progress contributor Ian Millhiser reports, proposals in the U.S. Senate to temper the rule (as was done previously by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch when he once chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee) are meeting strong resistance from…Senator Orrin Hatch:

“Rolling back the Senate’s so-called ‘blue slip process’ would be ‘disastrous,’ according to an op-ed written by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on Friday. Which is somewhat of a surprising position for Hatch to take, since he largely abandoned this blue slip process in 2003. Read More

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Blue slipIn case you’ve lost count, today is Day #289 on the Richard Burr Blue Slip Watch. It’s been nearly ten months since President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill what is the longest-standing vacancy in the federal court system in North Carolina’s Eastern District. Unfortunately, as we have reported repeatedly on this site, Burr is blocking consideration of May-Parker unilaterally and refusing to say why. It’s a disgraceful situation that is made only worse by the fact that May-Parker would be the first African-American and only the second woman to serve on the federal bench in the Eastern District in its history.

And speaking of inexcusable behavior by North Carolina elected officials, commentator Marena Groll of ENC Weekly did a great job this week of skewering Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly over the state’s worst-in-the-nation tax policy changes.

And speaking of the state’s misguided economic policies, Read More

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The New York Times wasn’t the only news outlet today — Day 285 of the Burr “blue slip” watch —  to chastise U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for obstructing the judicial nomination process and refusing to return the traditional “blue slip” allowing his own nominee for a seat on the federal bench in eastern North Carolina, Jennifer May-Parker, to move to a Judiciary Committee hearing in the Senate.

The Carolina Mercury and the News & Record  both picked up the Times editorial, and several others chimed in with their own thoughts.

The Asheville Citizen-Times editorial board gave Burr a grade of “F” for his tactics:

F to Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, for his puzzling move to block filling the seat of a federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The seat has been vacant for more than eight years. In 2009 Burr recommended federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill the seat. Last June President Obama nominated May-Parker. But she has yet to receive a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of the Senate’s “blue slip’’ tradition. The practice, dating to the early 20th century, means if a home-state senator doesn’t return a blue piece of paper signing off on a judicial nomination, the nominee doesn’t get a committee hearing, a step before heading to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote. Burr has changed his mind on May-Parker and hasn’t explained why. Thanks to this sort of stonewalling, there are more than 80 vacancies on the federal bench. Burr should explain his reasoning or the Senate should re-examine this practice, which isn’t even a formal rule.

And citizens too weighed in, voicing their own disapproval in letters to editors.

Reader Vicki Boyer reminded the senator in this letter in the Durham Herald Sun that women voters here are watching and waiting for more women judges, and warned that if he didn’t return his “blue slip” they may be sending him a “pink slip” come 2016:

That our senator, Richard Burr, would keep the entire U.S. Senate from having hearings on the appointment of Jennifer May-Parker as federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina is indicative of what is wrong in Washington.

Here we have a perfectly qualified candidate for the judiciary, originally approved by Burr, who cannot even get a hearing on the hill because Burr has flipped-flopped and won’t turn in his “blue slip” on her nomination. This senate “courtesy” to fellow senators has long been used to hold up nominations. That one person can hold up the work of the Senate and the judiciary for, in this case, reasons he refuses to explain is ridiculous.

I call upon Senator Burr to send in that blue slip or publicly explain himself. Our courts need May-Parker. She is very well qualified and a woman. Women are 54 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters. And we want to see more women sitting on the bench.

So, sign that blue slip, senator, or in 2016, women will be sending you a pink one.

 

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The saga of judicial obstructionism continues in Washington, thanks in large part to the stalling tactics of our own U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

As we’ve reported often (see Rob Schofield’s most recent post here), the senator is inexplicably refusing to support one of his own selections, Jennifer May-Parker, to fill the now 8-year vacant seat on the federal court in the district serving eastern North Carolina.

Time and again, we’ve asked for an explanation as to why he was holding up the nomination of a woman who would be the first African-American to serve in that court — and, once U.S. Judge James Beaty takes senior status in June — the only African American judge to serve on the federal bench in the entire state.

Burr’s abuse of the judicial selection process is now bringing more negative national attention to the state. Yesterday, in a piece about continued intransigence getting judicial nominees confirmed — even in the absence of the filibuster — Newsweek magazine called out Burr as a singular example of what continues to plague Washington:

” . . . the May-Parker debacle stands out as a particularly egregious example of obstruction keeping the Obama administration from filling dozens of vacancies across the country despite a years-long judicial vacancy crisis.”

That’s notoriety North Carolina could do without.

 

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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.

Here’s more:

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.”