Advocates Urge Grassley Not to Abandon Time-Honored, Bipartisan Rule on Judicial Nominees

Zack Ford, Press Secretary
(202) 464-7370 /

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 1 – Des Moines, Iowa – Today, advocates from Iowa and 17 other states descended on the office of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) 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 Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals despite the objection of one of his home-state senators, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin). 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 both Democratic and Republican 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 home-state senator objected. Yet current majority Senate 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.”

“While we certainly appreciate the senator and his staff’s willingness to meet with us, we urge him to listen to our concerns and act on behalf of all Iowans and Americans when it comes to our federal judiciary,” said Sue Dinsdale, Director Iowa Citizen Action Network.

“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 Senator 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 Senator Grassley know that the Senate must consider diverse, independent, and fair nominees for these critical lifetime appointments.

“Senator Grassley’s constituents are speaking out about his unique role as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Cedric 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.”

“The prospect of the Senate abandoning the tradition of blue slips is a major disappointment,” said Courts Matter Nebraska Coalition Co-Chair Carol Bloch. Robbie McEwen, fellow co-chair of the coalition. “The blue slip process ensures that home states have a voice in the federal judicial nominations process and that is an important value we need to protect in the Eighth Circuit and the entire country.”

“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.”

“In Wisconsin we’ve seen firsthand the kinds of people and the repugnant views Michael Brennan thinks are acceptable for judges,” said Analiese Eicher, program director, One Wisconsin Institute. “It’s clear we can’t count on him to carry out the most basic functions of a judge on the federal bench treating everyone equally before the law.”

“As Senate Judiciary Chair, Sen. Grassley bears the lion’s share of responsibility for abusing the nominations process and fast-tracking Donald Trump’s unqualified and extreme nominees for lifetime seats on the federal bench,” said Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice Action Campaign. “Iowans and national allies are making it clear today that Grassley will be held accountable for the damage he is doing to the federal bench.”

“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.”

“LGBTQ Iowans understand how important the courts are to protecting constitutional rights,” said Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, executive director of One Iowa Action. “Giving everyone a level playing field requires staffing the judiciary with fair-minded constitutionalists who are representative of the population they serve. Senator Grassley has unfortunately been all too willing to advance extreme judicial nominees with few or no qualifications simply based on which party appointed them. We call on the Senator to raise his standards and do his job in properly vetting judicial candidates for impartiality, diversity, and experience.”

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