Nearly exactly a month after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that he would not allow Democrats to use the blue-slip process as a stealth filibuster, McConnell has ordered the Judiciary Committee to treat them as strictly advisory.
Senators traded rhetorical shots on Wednesday after tensions over the issue - which have been simmering for months - appeared to spill over.
As of four hours ago, Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard reported that McConnell is ending the "blue slip".
"If Mitch McConnell does not step down, we foresee a scorched earth disaster from a furious Republican base that will take it out on elected officials in 2018 and again in 2020", Bozell said. "If you mean he's not announcing a committee position, then yes, he's not announcing a committee position". As ThinkProgress's Ian Millhiser explained in a history of the practice, prior to Leahy and Grassley, only one Judiciary Committee chairman had followed a strict rule of letting one senator veto judicial nominees from his or her state; others gave some deference to home-state senators, but in varying degrees.
The blue slip tradition has been upheld by both parties for the past century, with only rare examples of judges making it to the bench without the blessing of both home state senators - the last time it happened was 1989.
In that piece (with just the sort of headline McConnell's team was looking for amid accusations from conservatives that he wasn't being aggressive enough: "Mitch McConnell Goes to the Mattresses for Trump's Judicial Nominees"), McConnell said he would begin prioritizing consideration of judicial nominees over executive nominees.
"The Senate has fewer and fewer mechanisms that create bipartisanship and bring people to an agreement". That sparked backlash from Democrats, who said the move would be hypocritical, as Republicans staunchly defended the blue slip process while Obama was in office.
"2017 has been a disappointing year for the millions of Americans who fully expected, and had every right to expect real change in Washington", the letter said. Blue slips amount to giving a single senator veto power over a president's court pick.
The Senate hasn't confirmed many of Trump's picks, though ― a total of six district and appeals court judges so far ― hence the pressure on McConnell to do more.
Trump's most recent wave of nominations came as the Senate is battling over what to do with the "blue slip" practice, which has come under fire from some Republicans. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have said they won't turn in blue slips for some of Trump's judicial nominees from their states.
One of McConnell's critics is the Judicial Crisis Network, which promotes the nomination of more conservatives. "Trump has so far sent nominees for 50 of the current vacancies". "The Republicans control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate".
The expansion means, however, that Democrats will be hard-pressed to prevent any of Trump's judicial nominees from being confirmed, so long as Republicans can agree on them. He could be trying, somewhat clumsily, to have it both ways: to insist in the press that he's pushing for a more aggressive approach on nominees while maintaining a more nuanced position within his caucus.
Bannon, however, has more bluntly and actively opposed McConnell. "Sen. Grassley has said that he expects senators and the president to continue engaging in consultation when selecting judicial nominees, and that, as in the past, any abuses of the courtesy would be addressed on a case-by-case basis", Foy said.