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Breaking Tradition, Senate Confirms Stras to 8th Circuit

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 31, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The blue-slip rule -- a traditional endorsement by home-state Senators for judicial nominees -- has guided Senate confirmations for nearly a century. But not anymore.

The Senate confirmed Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals without a blue slip from one of the state's Senators. Stras is the first nominee to be confirmed without the traditional rite of passage in 80 years.

It would have been controversial except things have changed recently. The Republicans are charging ahead with President Trump's nominees, and Al Franken is not a Senator anymore.

No Blue Slip

Stras faced the Senate Judiciary Committee in November without the support of then-Sen. Al Franken. He had not given his blue-slip approval for the nominee.

Franken said the White House did not give him an opportunity to review other potentials, and he expressed "severe reservations" about the nominee's conservative record. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the judiciary committee, went forward anyway.

Grassley said the blue-slip tradition was a symbol of cooperation between home-state Senators and the White House. It merely signaled that the president had consulted with the Senators before making a final choice.

The move to proceed stirred some controversy among Democrats at the time because Grassley also said he would move forward with other nominees as well. The blue-slip tradition was not meant to give a single Senator veto power, he said.

Franken Factor

It nearly became a moot point, however, because Franken later resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct. He announced his resignation on the Senate floor in early December.

He had been accused of inappropriately touching seven women, including a radio and television host. Leeann Tweeden said Franken groped and forcibly kissed her during a USO tour before he became a senator.

Franken was a Saturday Night Live star then, and Tweeden said he grabbed her breasts while she was asleep in 2006. She came out with her story years later, she said, because it was her moment to speak up.

"I've decided it's time to tell my story. #MeToo," she tweeted .

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