Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Pat Toomey has been harshly criticized for collaborating with his party’s efforts to obstruct Third Circuit nominee L. Felipe Restrepo a judicial nominee from Pennsylvania who Toomey says he supports. The senator now appears to be doing the same thing with several Pennsylvania district court nominees who he himself actually recommended to the White House.
Specifically, he is refusing to submit the “blue slips” for Eastern District nominee John Younge, and for Western District nominees Robert Colville, Susan Paradise Baxter, and Marilyn Horan. All four were recommended by both Toomey and his Democratic colleague, Bob Casey. When the White House nominated them back in July, both senators praised them. However, only one of the senators actually did something to move the nominations: Casey swiftly submitted his “blue slips,” which is how senators signal that they don’t object to the Judiciary Committee considering a judicial nominee from their state. Blue slips aren’t part of Senate or committee rules; they are simply a courtesy of the chairman, who decides for himself the importance he gives them. Under current practice, the chairman won’t schedule a hearing until he gets blue slips from both home state senators.
In the nearly five months since the four Pennsylvanians were nominated upon Toomey’s recommendation, he has refused to submit his blue slips. When a reporter from the Butler Eagle asked for an explanation, he was told that Toomey was waiting for the committee to complete its background investigation of the nominees. This is the same line he eventually settled on with Restrepo, an explanation that was full of holes and simply not believable. Nor is it any more believable now. From the Butler Eagle:
According to a Toomey staffer, the senator will not submit the blue slip for any judicial candidate until the investigation is done, just to make sure the candidates’ backgrounds are clear. If any problems turn up in the investigation and the blue slip already is turned in, there is nothing to stop a vote on the nominee, the staffer said.
That’s simply false. Just ask Steve Six, a Tenth Circuit nominee from Kansas in 2011, when Democrats held the Senate majority. Republicans home state senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran submitted their blue slips, and Six had a confirmation hearing. But afterward, the senators rescinded their blue slips. Then-Chairman Patrick Leahy, who supported the nominee, was not at all happy about this. Nevertheless, he chose to accede to the home-state senators’ modified wishes, and he never held a committee vote for Six, which essentially ended the nomination.
Does Toomey really think the current chairman, who is of his own party, would not show a similar courtesy to Toomey that Democrat Patrick Leahy showed to the Republican senators from Kansas? Chuck Grassley might not appreciate Toomey’s lack of faith in him.
Or perhaps Toomey is assuming his constituents won’t realize that the story he is peddling makes no sense.
With Restrepo and four district court nominees, Toomey continues to collaborate with Washington, DC party leaders to obstruct judicial nominees he says he supports. Individuals and businesses in Pennsylvania who rely on a functioning court system are the ones who pay the price.