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After the blue slip burned with Trump in office, Biden-era Republicans feel its absence

Tensions flared at the Senate on Wednesday as Democrats wield their majority power to advance judicial nominations without home-state approval.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Now on the other side of political changes they made to silence dissent when their party was in control of federal court nominations, Republicans are voicing frustration as judges appointed by President Joe Biden fly through the Senate Judiciary Committee without the approval of lawmakers from the states they are going to serve.

A "blue slip" for an appointed judge traditionally signaled support from home-state senators as nominees received hearings from the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation process on their way to bench.

The age-old rule, also known as senatorial courtesy, was used during previous administrations and sometimes meant the end of nominations to the federal courts of appeals, but Republicans scrapped the custom during the Trump administration to push forward circuit court nominees despite Democratic objections.

Much to the dismay of Republicans today, however, Democrats are now following in their footsteps, moving forward with circuit court nominees who have inspired opposition from lawmakers in the nominees' home states.

As the committee met Wednesday to consider the nomination of Andre Mathis to the Sixth Circuit, which sits in Cincinnati and covers the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan, Tennessee's two Republican senators voiced their disapproval.

Saying she only learned Tuesday about the hearing for Mathis, Senator Marsha Blackburn slammed Democrats for not sending her a blue slip asking whether she supported the nomination.

“I do see it as a breach of constitutional norms," Blackburn said.

Blackburn expressed opposition to Mathis' nomination over the fact that he has not served as a judge or argued appeals in federal court.

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the committee, apologized for the lack of notice given to Blackburn and said home-state senators still have a right to consult nominees from their state.

The chairman went on to note that 18 of former President Donald Trump's nominees made it out of the committee without consent from their home-state senators, a precedent he said Democrats have the right to follow.

“We are about to enter a four-year, I don’t want to characterize or mischaracterize the situation, four years of trying to balance the books,” Durbin said.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley previously served as the head of the committee under Trump and spearheaded the end of the "blue slip" process for circuit court nominees. The Iowa senator nevertheless claimed that, in pushing for Mathis' nomination, Democrats of breaking from tradition.

“The approach adopted by this administration ignores the idea of bipartisan cooperation. It is a severe change from past practices to require so little consultation," Grassley said.

While Democrats said they are open to reaching a bipartisan agreement in the future to reduce tensions over nominees, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse described it as a problem of Republicans' own making.

“Nobody warned, and warned, and warned of what the decision by Republicans on this committee to end the blue slip meant more than I did," the Rhode Island Democrat said. "I warned, over, and over again. I begged and pleaded that you not do this. But you chose to do that, and that’s where we are right now. No blue slip, no recourse."

Durbin said that potentially after the 2024 presidential election, the committee can evaluate the standards for nominations.

“We don’t know who’s going to win that at this point, and we might have a standard moving forward from there," Durbin said.

The committee on Wednesday also considered the nomination of three district court nominees, a process where the "blue slip" custom remains in tact. Jessica Clarke, nominee for the Southern District of New York, Hector Gonzalez, a nominee for the Eastern District of New York, and Fred Slaughter, a nominee for the Central District of California, testified before the committee Wednesday.

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