|This article is part of a series on the|
|United States Senate|
|History of the United States Senate|
|Politics and procedure|
A blue slip or blue-slipping refers to two distinct legislative procedures in the United States Congress.
In the House, it is the rejection slip given to tax and spending bills sent to it by the Senate that did not originate in the House, per the House's interpretation of the Origination Clause.
In the Senate, it is the slip on which the Senators from the state of residence of a federal judicial nominee give an opinion on the nominee.
The Origination Clause of the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 7, Clause 1) provides that the House of Representatives has exclusive authority to introduce bills raising revenue: "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives." As such, the House considers itself to be the only proper venue to originate any bills appropriating revenue.
When, in the opinion of the House of Representatives, a Senate-introduced bill that raises revenue or appropriates money is passed by the Senate and sent to the House for its consideration, the House places a blue slip on the legislation that notes the House's constitutional prerogative and returns it to the Senate without taking further action. This blue-slipping procedure, done by an order of the House, is routinely completed to enforce its interpretation that the House is the sole body to introduce revenue or appropriations legislation. The failure of the House to consider the legislation means it cannot become a law. This tactic is historically of great use to the House and, as a practical matter, the Senate does not introduce tax or revenue measures in order to avoid a blue slip.
The Senate can circumvent this requirement by substituting the text of any bill previously passed by the House with the text of a revenue bill.
In the Senate, a blue slip is an opinion written by a Senator from the state where a federal judicial nominee resides. Both senators from a nominee's state are sent a blue slip in which they may submit a favorable or unfavorable opinion of a nominee. They may also choose not to return a blue slip. The Senate Judiciary Committee takes blue slips into consideration when deciding whether or not to recommend that the Senate confirm a nominee.
A report issued by the Congressional Research Service in 2003 defines six periods in the use of the blue slip by the Senate:
- "From 1917 through 1955: The blue-slip policy allowed home-state Senators to state their objections but committee action to move forward on a nomination. If a Senator objected to his/her home-state nominee, the committee would report the nominee adversely to the Senate, where the contesting Senator would have the option of stating his/her objections to the nominee before the Senate would vote on confirmation.
- "From 1956 through 1978: A single home-state Senator could stop all committee action on a judicial nominee by either returning a negative blue slip or failing to return a blue slip to the committee.
- "From 1979 to mid-1989: A home-state Senator’s failure to return a blue slip would not necessarily prevent committee action on a nominee.
- "From mid-1989 through June 5, 2001: In a public letter (1989) on the committee’s blue-slip policy, the chairman wrote that one negative blue slip would be “a significant factor to be weighed” but would “not preclude consideration” of a nominee “unless the Administration has not consulted with both home state Senators.” The committee would take no action, regardless of presidential consultation, if both home-state Senators returned negative blue slips.
- "From June 6, 2001, to 2003: The chairman’s blue-slip policy allowed movement on a judicial nominee only if both home-state Senators returned positive blue slips to the committee. If one home-state Senator returned a negative blue slip, no further action would be taken on the nominee.
Since 2003, blue slip policy has changed several more times, as follows:
- "2003-2007: A return of a negative blue slip by one or both home-state Senators does not prevent the committee from moving forward with the nomination — provided that the Administration has engaged in pre-nomination consultation with both of the home-state Senators."
- From 2007 to January 3, 2018: The chairman’s blue-slip policy allowed movement on a judicial nominee only if both home-state Senators returned positive blue slips to the committee. If one home-state Senator returned a negative blue slip, no further action would be taken on the nominee.
- January 3, 2018 - present: "The lack of two positive blue slips will not necessarily preclude a circuit-court nominee from receiving a hearing unless the White House failed to consult with home-state senators. Hearings are unlikely for district court nominees without two positive blue slips."
In October 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he believed blue slips should not prevent committee action on a nominee.In November 2017, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, announced that the committee would hold hearings for David Stras and Kyle Duncan. Stras' hearing was held up by Senator Al Franken's refusal to return his blue slip, while Duncan's hearing was held up by Senator John Neely Kennedy's indecision on his blue slip. Kennedy, however, consented to Duncan receiving a hearing.
In February 2019, attorney Eric Miller was confirmed to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the fact that neither of his two home-state senators (Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both of Washington) had returned blue slips for him.He was the first federal judicial nominee to be confirmed without support from either of his home-state senators, although other nominees were similarly confirmed to the Courts of Appeals without blue slips later in 2019, including Paul Matey (Third Circuit, New Jersey), Joseph F. Bianco and Michael H. Park (both Second Circuit, New York), and Kenneth K. Lee, Daniel P. Collins, and Daniel Aaron Bress (all Ninth Circuit, California).
Charles Ernest Grassley is an American politician serving as the president pro tempore of the United States Senate, and the senior United States senator from Iowa. He is in his seventh term in the Senate, having first been elected in 1980.
Speculation abounded over potential nominations to the Supreme Court of the United States by President George W. Bush since before his presidency.
The Gang of 14 was a phrase coined to describe the bipartisan group of Senators in the 109th United States Congress who successfully, at the time, negotiated a compromise in the spring of 2005 to avoid the deployment of the so-called "nuclear option" by Senate Republicans over an organized use of the filibuster by Senate Democrats. The term alludes to the phrase "Gang of Four", used in China to refer to four ex-leaders blamed for the abuses during the rule of Mao Zedong.
Richard Allen Griffin is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Previously, he was a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals.
David William McKeague is a Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The Origination Clause, sometimes called the Revenue Clause, is Article I, Section 7, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution. The clause says that all bills for raising revenue must start in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the U.S. Senate may propose or concur with amendments, as in the case of other bills.
Colm Felix Connolly is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. He was formerly a United States Attorney for the District of Delaware.
Helene N. White is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Previously, she was a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals.
U.S. President Barack Obama nominated over 400 individuals for federal judgeships during his presidency. Of these nominations, Congress confirmed 329 judgeships, 173 during the 111th & 112th Congresses and 156 during the 113th and 114th Congresses.
Paul Adam Engelmayer is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Patty Shwartz is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Rachelle "Shelly" Lynne Deckert Dick is the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. She is the first female judge to serve in the Middle District.
Joan Louise Larsen is an American attorney and jurist serving as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She previously was an Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court from 2015 to 2017.
Michael Brian Brennan is a United States Circuit Court Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He was first nominated on August 3, 2017, by U.S. President Donald Trump, and was re-nominated in 2018. He was confirmed May 10, 2018. He was previously a partner in the Milwaukee law firm Gass Weber Mullins LLC, and served 8 years as a Wisconsin Circuit Court judge.
Leonard Steven Grasz is an American lawyer and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Ryan Wesley Bounds is an American attorney serving as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Oregon. Bounds had been a nominee for a position as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Brett Joseph Talley is an American lawyer and author who currently serves as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice. In September 2017, he was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill a vacancy on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. His nomination drew controversy due to his lack of judicial experience, partisan personal blogging, and failure to disclose that he was married to Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff to White House counsel Don McGahn. He became the third judicial nominee since 1989 to receive a unanimous rating of "not qualified" from the American Bar Association. On December 13, 2017, Talley withdrew his name from consideration for the appointment.
President Donald Trump entered office with a significant number of judicial vacancies, including a Supreme Court vacancy due to the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016. During the first eight months of his presidency, he nominated approximately 50 judges, a significantly higher number than any other recent president had made by that point in his presidency. By June 24, 2020, 200 of his Article III nominees had been confirmed by the United States Senate.
Eric Earl Murphy is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and former Solicitor General of Ohio.
Eric David Miller is an American attorney and jurist serving as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.