The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Milwaukee lawyer Michael Brennan was confirmed for a key federal judgeship Thursday, filling the oldest appellate vacancy in the country but deepening a partisan schism in the U.S. Senate over judges. Brennan will take a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that has stood open since 2010 amid a bitter political standoff.
He was confirmed 49-46 with only Republican votes, over the objections of Democrat Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s junior senator. That has typically been enough to sink a nomination in recent years, because senators from both parties have enjoyed an effective veto over the selection of federal judges from their home states, a tradition known as the “blue slip.”
Democratic House Rep. Gwen Moore reacts:
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to ignore decades of precedent by disregarding Senator Baldwin’s ‘blue slip’ objection to the nomination of Milwaukee attorney Michael Brennan is yet another egregious example of Republicans undermining Senate norms in their attempts to push through radical and unqualified judges. Despite their routine use of blue slips to block President Obama’s nominees, it now seems GOP Senators are disavowing the practice to ensure the lifetime appointment of another white judge to an all-white appellate circuit. The Republican hypocrisy is sure to cast a shadow on our nation’s judicial branch – the consequences of which will be felt for years to come.”
From the Human Rights Campaign:
For the past 100 years, the Senate Judiciary Committee has typically waited to receive two positive blue slips from home-state senators before commencing a confirmation hearing on behalf of a proposed judge at either the District Court or Court of Appeals level. When respected, the blue slip process ensures that home-state senators are able to properly research judicial nominees and provide feedback.
Brennan himself wrote an editorial endorsing the blue slip process in 2011 after Senator Ron Johnson refused to return his blue slip for a President Obama nominee to the Seventh Circuit. In Brennan’s own words, to bypass the blue slip process would be “a purely partisan move” that would exclude not only Sen. Johnson, but the millions of citizens who voted for him.
It was Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley who put McConnell’s decision into action.