McConnell also made clear that he meant to keep making floor time that he would prioritize confirming new federal judges over some other mid-level Trump nominees, given the long-term significance of getting new conservatives installed in jobs that will long outlast the Trump White House. "Over the years, chairmen have applied the courtesy differently, but the spirit of consultation has always remained".
The conservative Weekly Standard published an interview with McConnell Wednesday suggesting the GOP leaders had chose to get rid of blue slips. Possibly under duress, Mitch McConnell is offering Trump a big assist on the judicial front. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden's refusal to return blue slips for prosecutor Ryan Bounds, Trump's nominee to sit on the 9th Circuit. There are now roughly 140 vacancies on the federal bench, providing Trump with the opportunity to cement a lasting legacy on the courts. In the past, senators have sometimes barred a nominee from their state by refusing to return their slip to the committee, thus preventing a hearing and confirmation. "The committee has scheduled a hearing next week for five additional judicial nominees".
And when nominees "come out of committee, I guarantee they will be dealt with", McConnell said. Grassley has called for the Senate to skip recesses (in fact, senators are away this week) until the backlog is resolved.
Grassley has so far been reluctant to end the blue-slip tradition, even as past judiciary panel chairmen, including Sen. McConnell's vocal push to change the blue slip could inoculate from some of that criticism.
But with Republicans struggling to make good on their key agenda items - they have, so far, failed to repeal ObamaCare and there are early signs of trouble on tax reform - the courts offer perhaps the best path to the GOP and Trump securing a long-term legacy. The influential group had threatened to run ads against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell starting this week but backed off after winning assurances from the Kentucky Republican that the pace will quicken. That allowed Republicans to block more than a dozen nominees to the bench.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, added that the comments in The Weekly Standard interview were a reflection of "the Leader's well-known public position on the matter".
"The Senate has fewer and fewer mechanisms that create bipartisanship and bring people to an agreement". The blue slip process represents more than simply a longstanding practice: it's a way for senators to protect their constituents from extremism and cronyism.
Specifically, McConnell said in the interview that when it comes to the "priority between an assistant secretary of State and a conservative court judge - it's not a hard choice to make".
"Today's statement by Senator McConnell reveals his contempt for the institution of the Senate and the traditions of comity and respect that have made it work".