Opinion: Franken-fears may threaten another Senate tradition

When another Senate tradition falls by the wayside one of these days, keep this senator’s statement in mind:

The tradition I have in mind is the “blue slip,” by which senators convey their approval of federal judges nominated in their states. To be sure, Republican senators have blocked appointments before by withholding their blue slip, but then that’s the point of having the practice. As with confirmations, there’d be no need for a process if its intended result were just a rubber stamp.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during the Senate Judiciary committee hearing to consider the nomination of Rod Rosenstein for deputy attorney general, at the Capitol in Washington, March 7. (Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

Comedian-turned-Senator Al Franken, however, has taken the use of the blue slip to what seems to be a new level: He is blocking a nominee he previously described as a “committed public servant” who “cares about the law” because the nominee … well … clerked for a Supreme Court justice, learned from another, and was supported by mainstream conservative groups.

That’s it. Franken makes no claim that the nominee, David Stras, belonged to those groups or made questionable statements about his own judicial philosophy. The only thing Franken’s statement quotes Stras as saying is, “I really grew up with a steady diet of Justice Scalia, and I’m better for it.”

Wait … a judge expressed his admiration for a long-time Supreme Court justice? Well, stop the law review presses!

Never mind that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — whose tutelage Franken presumably would appreciate in a judicial nominee — eulogized Scalia as “a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit” whose dissents had worked to strengthen even her own written opinions.

Worse, Franken cannot summon even a single example of an objectionable ruling by the nominee, David Stras. He merely posits that, because Stras was influenced by Scalia and clerked for Clarence Thomas, he is bound to make objectionable rulings one day.

Seriously.

What’s more, Franken demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what a judge does, writing: “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.” But the job of a judge is not to “find common ground.” It’s to interpret the law. Even when it comes to working with their fellow jurists, judges don’t seek “common ground.” (They will sometimes strategically shape the limits of, or reasoning behind, a particular ruling in order to attract other judges to their side for the purpose of forming a majority on a panel, but that’s a matter of tailoring the ruling, not tailoring the law.) Here, Franken is making it plain that he believes upholding the law is secondary to arriving at desired policy outcomes.

Franken also manages to ignore the role he played in ensuring any president wouldn’t have to work with opposition-party senators to find a “consensus candidate”: He joined all but three Democrats is voting for the “nuclear option” to kill the filibuster for all presidential nominees except the Supreme Court. (Stras was nominated to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.)

That paved the way for Republicans earlier this year to kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, and now one wonders how much longer the blue-slip tradition will last if others join Franken in abusing it in this way.

And that’s the biggest reason this matters to those of us who live well beyond the Eighth Circuit. The blue slip is one of those mechanisms by which the Senate tried to moderate itself and the other, co-equal branches with which it works. With the filibuster’s demise regarding nominations, it’s one of the few remaining. To abuse that mechanism to block a nominee whose lack of moderation is unapparent from his work, but merely inferred from his associations, is to make a mockery of it. And, in all likelihood, to lead to its eventual death as well.

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142 comments
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bonoyileh

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Caius
Caius

Ya'll can relax now.  Chuck, Donald and Nancy have all bases covered. We gonna fix all the storm damage, pay all our bills, keep the Dreamers around and cancel most deportations of illegals so they can fix the several hundred thousand damaged houses and businesses.  Then to top it off we gonna cancel The Wall and give everybody a tax cut when we redo the stinkin' tax system.

The Russians?  No problem.  The Democrats are not gonna let a fellow Dem be run out of office.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Just read about Bannon and his comments about the catholic church catering to illegals.


Oh God forbid the church should actually help the people who truly need it. I won't call him racist but there is some deep seeded resentment he has towards Latinos.

Doomy
Doomy

@McGarnagle


I've seen plenty of progs on here castigate not only the Catholics but all Christian denominations for various reasons but mostly out of sheer hate. You've never criticized them for their various Christian bashing but you're all of a sudden upset over Bannon? What gives?


Also, Bannon's point is a simple and obvious one. Central Americans are devout Catholics and in his view, and that of many others, the Catholic church wants them here because they want more parishioners. In other words it's about money. 

Doomy
Doomy

"Worst President ever..."


No doubt. Unemployment down in the mid 4% range- lowest in years, stock market booming at all time highs, economic growth moving at a pace not seen in a couple years, regulations being slashed in an effort to improve the economy, and on and on. If this is what the worse president ever brings us then we should be so fortunate to have such a bad potus. 

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Doomy

LOL. You can be funny as hell, Doomy, even if it is unintentional.

Doomy
Doomy

@Eye wonder @Doomy


I have an unbeatable recipe with you as my comedic material. 


Surely you are not disputing the facts that I posted- seeing as how the unemployment numbers, GDP growth numbers, and stock market performance can't be factually disputed. 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Doomy @Eye wonder 

He'll say it's because Obama did such a great job and handed Trump an economic cake walk.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Doomy  The unemployment was trending down before Trump stepped foot in office...

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@SGTGrit @Doomy @Eye wonder

If you look at graphs charting the DJIA, US unemployment rate and GDP growth over the last decade it would be hard not to argue that. But then you right wingnuts are adept at contorting yourselves into the most ludicrous arguments to support the narrative you are humping.

Caius
Caius

@Doomy Chuck and Nancy think Donald is an OK president.

Doomy
Doomy

@BuckeyeGa @SGTGrit @Doomy @Eye wonder


True. But the recession was already nearing its end when Obama came into office. Jobs losses had already bottomed out and the recession ended a scant 6 months later. And it ended partly due to renewed optimism over Obama coming into office. Optimism over a new president, especially after a previously disastrous president, can certainly impact economic performance, as we've seen with both Obama replacing W and with Trump replacing Obama. 

Doomy
Doomy

@Eye wonder @SGTGrit @Doomy


History tells us that the more severe a recession the greater the recovery. Obviously the Obama recovery is quite the exception. 


Furthermore, the Obama presidency has the distinction of being the only presidency since the Great Depression to not have even one single year of GDP growth of 3% or greater. 


And don't even try to dispute it. The empirical evidence is what it is. 

StevenSuna
StevenSuna

Apparently Mr. Wingfield forgets that our own Senator Perdue did the same to Judge Dax Lopez after he was nominated by his fellow Republican, our own Senator Johnny Isakson, merely because he was "uncomfortable" with Judge Lopez being a member of the Georgia Assoc. of Latino Elected Officials.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@StevenSuna Apparently you didn't read to the bottom of the comment thread. I addressed it below in answer to another reader's question. You may not like my answer, but I didn't forget about it.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

I don't blame Sen. Franken, he is what he is. I do wonder about the good people of Minnesota who put someone like him in the US Senate, as in "what were they thinking?".

Then I remember that the rest of the country probably wondered the same thing when we Georgians elected Lester Maddox governor.

jhgm63
jhgm63

Well, since compromise is apparently no longer possible, make it winner take all and get rid of this and the filibuster and all the other silly games they play.

BTC
BTC

Worst President ever...

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

Liberals are saying, "Cry us a river."  There is nothing to compare to the games SOCONS have played for a generation.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@TheCentrist

Games you say?

I'll take Repub obstruction any day over the lawlessness of the Obama administration.

Just to name a few....

Fast & Furious - Holder won't give Congress the info and becomes the first sitting AG to be held in contempt of Congress.

You can keep your doctor, keep your plan - Obama lied repeatedly to afraid to tell the truth before his reelection.

Benhazi - Obama and Hillary colluded so as not to tell the truth before Obama's reelection and to protect Hillary's legacy as SOS.

IRS - not one smidgen of wrong doing said Obama while all the evidence points to the IRS being used against Obama's opposition to reelection.

Labor Board appointments - Obama made appointments that would not get through Congress while the Senate was on recess.  Problem is, they were not on recess.  Courts struck it down.

DACA - unlawful executive order on the Dreamers giving us the current mess where the Dreamers and Progs believe they have the high ground.

NSA - Unmasking of Trump and his staff captured during foreign surveillance.  This is under investigation and stinks on ice.

FBI and CIA Staffing - Obama put Clapper in place, then Clapper and Comey set about firing people form the Bush administration replacing them with die-hard liberals.  To prevent Trump from purging the ranks over 1000 were changed from at-will political employment to career jobs which means they can't be fired without cause.  This is where most of the leaks have come from.

Yep those Republicans are a bunch of obstructionists.

But those Dims are crooks.  

Pub Heaven
Pub Heaven

“A three-month debt ceiling? Why not do a daily debt ceiling?” cracked Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “He’s the best deal-maker ever. Don’t you know? I mean, he’s got a book out!”

😂😂😂😂😂

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Oh no . . . that's fine. Play the hell out of it. Play it, and play it, and play it . . . play it until you cannot think, speak, or stand up straight. Play it until the cows come home. 


The thing about it is that you - and millions of others who think like you - have contracted a permanent mental illness called Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). And the great thing about it that is that you (and your compadres) do have not even the first inkling of a clue as to why the biggest sure thing in the history of American presidential politics did not go your way last November.  

So keep on calling every one who does not agree with you or your politics a racist. And why not go ahead and make it a totally knee jerk reaction to any thing and everything that is opposed to your thinking at the moment, whatever that may be. 


For example: If someone says, "Hey, it looks like it is going to be a pretty nice day today." Your response:  "What?! Are you crazy? It is obviously not going to be a nice day today. You are clearly a hater and a racist for saying that."


So, don't just play it just because it is absolutely and totally all you have got . . . the only thing you have got. But play it because you can, and because you think you are getting away with it . . . but you are not, not even close (see November 2016 presidential election). That is the part all of us racists out there really like about it. 


But be careful very careful.  God forbid you be pulled into some kind of reasonable, intellectual, common sense, fact based argument or discussion about any issue. Just immediately play that race card and then run away as fast you can. All of us racists really like it when you do that.  

Starik
Starik

@Ficklefan I don't believe Trump voters are racists. I believe a great many of them are fools, fooled by a sleazy salesman.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Doomy 

What a bunch of total bull.  McConnell - successfully - stole that seat.  The so-called "Biden rule" exists only in the mind of kooky right wingnuts driven totally batty by having a black guy in the White House.  And yeah, I played the race card. Deal with it, sport. 


Doomy
Doomy

@Eye wonder @Doomy


"And yeah, I played the race card."


Well, if it's all ya got then it's all ya got, sport. 

breckenridge
breckenridge

I read a couple of reviews of Hillary's book.  She's really adept at placing blame on others.  Too bad she can't admit she was no more popular in 2016 than she was in 2008.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Both parties should have learned more about Trump today. He'll cut deals wherever he needs to if he believes it's in the best interest of America. Party at any cost, not President Trump.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@SGTGrit @breckenridge 

Yep, Trump showed his true democratic roots today.

You can take the man of democratic party, but you can't take the democrat out of his DNA.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@SGTGrit @breckenridge 

Actually I thought Trump did a nice job of shaking things up today. Predictable is boring and so transparent........duh..."we're going to kick the debt ceiling can down the road until after the 2018 elections."

Nope. Not happening.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@SGTGrit Tell us, how is a three-month debt ceiling increase "in the best interest of America" vs. the 18-month increase Ryan and McConnell wanted?

And don't tell us there's a possibility it won't go up later. It will. There will just be another fight, and another demand by the Dems for something that, I assume, you and I would not deem "in the best interest of America."

Caius
Caius

This is one of many Senate traditions I would like to see bite the dust. Franken's position is no worse than many others over the years by members of both parties.  The reason for opposing or approving is not important.


SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Trump, did what's right for the American people with two major hurricanes facing the country. In Trump think it's all about America, concerns with political parties don't compute. 

dmartinchief
dmartinchief

Good for Senator Franken, he is right we do not need any more fringe players. It is certainly seems to be alright when the Senators from the other side play this game.

PDPDP8
PDPDP8

After Repulicans blocked Obama's nominee anything is fair game.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@PDPDP8 

They can take their fair game and file it where the sun never shines. Trump, doesn't give a damn about that.

scarnet
scarnet

Comedian-turned-Senator says it all. Who doubted for one minute this guy would ever have a credible position on anything. Do us all a favor and go back to The Conedy Club, Al.

saxyoldguy
saxyoldguy

You're kidding, right? Jesse Helms and other Republicans made extensive use of senatorial home state privilege. As with many other obstructive tactics in the last decade, it's only when a Democrat uses them that you cry foul and deliver crocodile tears at the impending death of another Senate tradition.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

I wonder what life would have been like if Republicans did their constitutional duty to at least give an Obama Supreme Court Nominee a fair hearing instead of sitting on their arses and disrupting centuries of lawfulness with their whining like babies and not doing something they should have done. . . 


I wonder. . . 


But go on about Franken asking for a non-alt-right jurist ;) 

lighteredknot
lighteredknot

@LogicalDude obama put two duds on the SC. , and liberal Dist Judges and SC Judges  rule with their social justice, and the Dist Appeals overturn majority of their rulings. The 5th Circuit just overruled a Texas Fed Judge ruling on Tx voting laws.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Kyle_Wingfield @LogicalDude Franken's judgement. 


Sure, you call it a weak argument, but congress totally ignoring Obama's nominee was even weaker, and possibly unconstitutional. 


I do not see Franken's actions as unconstitutional.  A little political? Oh sure. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude So the worst Franken can come up with is that Stras admired Scalia, whom you admit was not "alt-right," but now you're citing "Franken's judgment" for calling Stras "alt-right."

I think you should change your name to Alt-Logical Dude. 'Cause that sure isn't mainstream logic ...

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Kyle_Wingfield @LogicalDude and yet, you still ignore the point about congress doing NOTHING with Obama's nominee. 


Since that was my major point, and everything else a toss off comment, I see where your priorities lie. :) 

Doomy
Doomy

@LogicalDude @Kyle_Wingfield


The Rs decided to go with the "Biden rule" regarding Garland.  


Obama got 2 alt left radicals on the court. That's enough so quit your whining. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude That's because I've made my position on Garland clear before. I think the GOP was dumb not to hold hearings. They didn't have to confirm him. But, as noted by Doomy, they were simply doing what Biden threatened to do in the event of a vacancy in 1992 -- another pair of escalations.