The Senate is set to escalate a long simmering fight over President Trump‘s judicial nominees.
Republicans are poised to confirm a pick for the influential circuit courts next week without the support of either of the nominee’s home-state senators — a first for the Trump era.
Eric Miller is the first appeals judge to get a vote on the Senate floor this year, and the 31st of Trump’s presidency. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.) set up an initial vote on his 9th Circuit nomination for Monday evening.
“The judicial train is running in the committee and it will soon hit the floor,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Miller’s nomination is set to revive a feud over “blue slips,” a paper that indicates if a home-state senator supports a nomination.
Though the Senate confirmed several appeals judges who were missing one blue slip last year, Miller would be the first circuit court nominee to be confirmed without getting a blue slip from either senator.
Democrats argue Republicans are trying to defang the minority by moving nominees even if they don’t have the support of a home-state senator.
Spokespeople for Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of Democratic leadership, and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) confirmed to The Hill on Friday that they did not return a blue slip on Miller’s nomination.
Murray first announced late last year that she wouldn’t return her blue slip for Miller, arguing that Republicans were trying to place “extreme conservatives” on the court.
“This needs to end. So I am not going to be complicit in this latest rushed process to load the courts with Trump nominees in the lame duck session and I will not be returning the blue slip that signals my approval of this process,” Murray said in a statement at the time.
The blue-slip rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.
How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the committee chairman, and enforcement has varied depending on who wields the gavel.
But the use of the blue slip has emerged as a flashpoint during the Trump administration as several Democratic senators have refused to return their paperwork on circuit court nominees from their home states, setting up a round of fights between Democrats and the White House.