Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) will not give his approval for Donald Trump’s pick of Minnesota state Supreme Court Justice David Stras for the 8th Circuit Court. The Senate has traditionally allowed home state senators to approve or oppose nominees to the judiciary. Senators will sign off on a nominee by submitting a “blue slip” to the chairman of the Judiciary committee, which in this case Franken will not provide.
“The president should be seeking out judges who bridge the issues that divide us,” Franken said in a statement Tuesday. “I fear that Justice Stras’s views and philosophy would lead him to reinforce those divisions and steer the already conservative Eighth Circuit even further to the right.” […]
Franken’s announcement shifts the pressure to Minnesota’s senior Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has said she is still evaluating the nominee’s paperwork.
“I had hoped that, in recognition of our different views, President Trump would work with me to identify a consensus candidate — a nominee whose experience demonstrates an ability to set aside rigid beliefs in favor of finding common ground,” said Franken, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “But rather than work together to select a nominee who is a judicial moderate, the White House had already settled on Justice Stras before first approaching me, and the president nominated him despite the concerns that I expressed.”
Klobuchar should absolutely oppose Stras as well. For one thing, she and Franken have been bypassed in the nomination process—they haven’t even been offered a meeting with Stras. Instead, he met with Republican House members from Minnesota, members who have no vote on his nomination. That’s a break with tradition, with precedent, with logic and reality. This should be a no-brainer for Klobuchar.
It doesn’t mean, however, that Stras’s nomination is dead. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has already signaled that he won’t necessarily recognize the blue slip tradition on key circuit court nominees. Grassley, as he often does, made tradition up of out of whole cloth, saying “I think the blue slip is more respected for district court judges historically than it has been for circuit.” That’s not particularly true, just his creating justification for forcing through key circuit court nominations. He’s got the leeway to do so—blue slips are just a tradition, not a requirement of the Senate.
Nevertheless, Franken’s willingness to fight is critical. The rest of his colleagues on the Judiciary need to join him and do everything in their power to resist allowing Trump to remake the judiciary.