Buffalo is short a federal judge, and the local U.S. attorney's office does its work with an interim leader. It's all because of the Trump administration's slowness in making appointments and a dispute over how much of a say Democratic senators should have in the appointments.
Now that dispute has moved into a new, more ominous phase, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision to curtail a tradition that long gave senators in the majority a chance to block nominees they opposed in their home state.
Under that tradition, senators could issue a "blue slip" that would say they would not accept a particular home-state judicial nomination. But McConnell told the Weekly Standard recently that he will change the meaning of those blue slips.
The Republican majority will regard a blue slip “as simply notification of how you’re going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball,” McConnell told the Weekly Standard.
Not surprisingly, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer was not pleased.
“The Senate has fewer and fewer mechanisms that create bipartisanship and bring people to an agreement," said Schumer, a New York Democrat. "The blue slips are one of them. It’s just a shame that Senator McConnell is willing to abandon it for circuit court judges."
Schumer said he hopes Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, will resist McConnell's suggestion.
Story topics: Political notebook