McConnell Opens Door to Health Care Vote Next Week

By Mary Ellen McIntire
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Former president Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Gates Foundation in New York on Wednesday. He talked about the Affordable Care Act and criticized Republican efforts to repeal it.

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Three years ago on Sept. 20, 2014, Roll Call photographer Bill Clark captured former Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., campaigning at an LSU football tailgate party — including a shot of her helping a student chug beer in a keg stand. Watch the story behind the story as described by the journalists who were there in this video from the 2014 midterms.

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Earlier this week, Speaker Paul D. Ryan urged the Senate to pass the latest GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, a proposal known as Graham-Cassidy. And on Wednesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dubbed the bill a “stink-a-roo” and said Democrats will have “all hands on deck” to kill the bill. Watch for both the leaders’ remarks.

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The Republicans’ latest drive to repeal Obamacare is reminiscent of a poetry fragment from Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade”: “Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why.”

Whatever happens with the bill likely slated to reach the Senate floor next week, it is hard to escape the feeling that this wild charge will end badly for the Republicans.

In belatedly pushing the legislation (sponsored by Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, Ron Johnson and Dean Heller), Mitch McConnell and the GOP leadership have absorbed none of the lessons from the dramatic failure of the last Senate repeal effort with an ailing John McCain casting the decisive “no” vote.

What has been baffling the Republicans since the days of Social Security and then Medicare is that social welfare programs with middle-class beneficiaries grow more popular over time. American voters, for understandable reasons, do not support legislative efforts to take away benefits that they have been receiving.

As a result, the only voters still passionate about repealing Obamacare are hardcore conservatives.

A Quinnipiac University poll, conducted in early August, found that 60 percent of registered voters (including 28 percent of Republicans) believe that it is time for Congress to move on. And recent surveys have also found that a majority of voters now approve of the once-reviled 2010 legislation known as Obamacare.

Even though it was developed without any congressional hearings, Graham-Cassidy is a complex piece of legislation with enough moving parts to satisfy Rube Goldberg. At its core, the bill would return most of the Obamacare money to the states to develop their own health care plans.

Meeting with reporters Tuesday afternoon, both Graham and Cassidy warbled about the virtues of this federalism. They almost made it sound like James Madison would have added Graham-Cassidy to the Constitution if only he and the other framers had thought of it.

As Graham put it in terms of his native South Carolina, “If you don’t like Obamacare, who do you complain to? You can complain to me, but I sure as hell don’t run it. If I can get South Carolina in charge of this money that would have been spent in Washington by a bureaucrat who is unelected, I promise every South Carolinian the following: ‘If you don’t like your health care, somebody will listen to you.’”

These comments are worth analyzing in detail because they point to the fatal political flaw in the proposed legislation. In exchange for protecting nervous GOP senators from the wrath of a Donald Trump tweet, the legislation risks a bloodbath for the Republicans in the 2018 gubernatorial elections.

Not only would Graham-Cassidy squeeze Medicaid spending across the board, but it would also transfer funds from the 31 states that have expanded the program under Obamacare to the 19 states (virtually all Republican) that have not.

Cassidy explained the politics of the bill in these blunt terms: “If you’re in a state that hasn’t expanded Medicaid, you’re going to do great.” Left unmentioned was the awkward fact that Cassidy’s home state of Louisiana has enrolled more than 400,000 people in an expanded Medicaid program.

Geography is not the only reason why there would be vocal losers under the legislation.

Graham-Cassidy encourages states to seek federal waivers to experiment with the package of health care benefits that insurers must provide. What this means is that parsimonious states could offer little more than catastrophic coverage or permit insurance companies to charge differential rates for people with pre-existing conditions.

If the Republicans are successful with this last-ditch “repeal and sorta replace” crusade, the remnants of Obamacare will land in 50 state capitals with a thud. Twenty-seven Republican-held governorships are on the ballot in 2018. And thanks to Graham-Cassidy, health care would suddenly become the dominant issue in many of these races.

Remember that Graham wants voters to be able to complain about health care to their governors. He said at Tuesday’s press conference, “You can go to your governor who will listen to you because they care about your vote if nothing else.”

The class of governors elected in 2018 will be major players in congressional redistricting after the 2020 Census. It would be devastating to the Republicans if states like Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin elected Democratic governors running on the newly energized health care issue.

But the Senate itself is also vulnerable to the ripple effects from the passage of Graham-Cassidy.

Both Heller, a bill sponsor from Nevada, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake are facing shrill primary challenges from the Trump wing of the party. While voting for Graham-Cassidy may help the two senators survive a primary, the vote becomes another factor complicating their fall re-election campaigns in states that expanded Medicaid.

Passage of Graham-Cassidy remains a dicey proposition since the mechanism to pass the legislation with only Republican votes turns into a pumpkin at the end of the month.

In an effort to placate McCain and his talk of “regular order,” the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Graham-Cassidy on Monday. Of course, since the legislation has already been sent to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring, the hearing will only be for decorative purposes. It will be the Senate equivalent of the “sentence first, trial later” approach to justice in “Alice in Wonderland.”

It remains difficult to understand why, beyond stubbornness, Senate Republicans have returned to the fray over Obamacare.

If Graham-Cassidy is defeated, it will point up the ineptitude of Senate Republicans under McConnell. And if it passes Congress, the GOP will be on the hook for the resulting benefit cutbacks for years to come.

Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro is a veteran of Politics Daily, USA Today, Time, Newsweek and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

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A bipartisan effort to stabilize the health insurance markets suffered a potentially fatal blow Tuesday as Senate Republicans kicked into high gear their attempt to repeal the 2010 health care law.

Facing a Sept. 30 deadline to utilize the 2017 budget reconciliation process that would allow passage of the health care legislation without having to worry about the filibuster, GOP leaders and the Vice President Mike Pence lobbied their rank and file to pass legislation spearheaded by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. It would repeal the 2010 law’s mandates for coverage, curtail the Medicaid program and block-grant money to the states to construct their own health care programs.

“I’ve never felt better about where we’re at,” Graham said about the measure after the GOP’s Tuesday lunch.

He has the full support of the Republican leadership.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has committed to bringing the measure up, even without a full estimate of its cost and coverage effects from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Speaker Paul D. Ryan has signaled that if the measure passes the Senate, the House would vote on it.

It was with this backdrop that Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander announced Tuesday he was unable to broker an agreement on a bill with Washington Democrat Patty Murray to stabilize the insurance markets, effectively killing the bipartisan effort.

The announcement by Alexander, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was the clearest signal yet that the GOP conference is charging forward with the Graham-Cassidy measure to dramatically reshape the U.S. health care system.

“Senator Murray and I had hoped to agree early this week on a limited, bipartisan plan to stabilize 2018 premiums in the individual health insurance market that we could take to Senate leaders by the end of the month. During the last month, we have worked hard and in good faith, but have not found the necessary consensus among Republicans and Democrats to put a bill in the Senate leaders’ hands that could be enacted,” Alexander said in a statement.

There were other signs the effort was in trouble on Tuesday; at the same time Ryan was throwing his support behind the Graham-Cassidy measure, he signaled the House would not take up the Alexander-Murray bill.

That was despite the bipartisan effort picking up support outside of Congress, with a group of 10 governors ranging from Alaska’s independent Gov. Bill Walker to Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich to Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper writing to Senate leaders to say the Graham-Cassidy measure should be set aside and Congress should focus on the Alexander-Murray effort to stabilize the markets.

Alexander — who bucked some in his party to try to find consensus with Murray, the HELP panel’s top Democrat — was facing pressure from both sides of the aisle.

Despite Graham’s optimism, it is unclear whether his legislation has the support of 50 Republicans, the amount needed to pass under the fast-track budget reconciliation process that Republicans are using.

The three Republican lawmakers who killed the previous effort — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona — have yet to publicly state their position on the current proposal. In addition, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has said he opposes it, and Graham has said he thinks getting his support is a lost cause.

Still, Graham, who returned to Washington on Tuesday for the GOP lunch with Pence from the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, is talking up its chances.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think we could get 50,” he said in the Capitol.

The decision by Alexander to abandon the bipartisan health care effort is likely to enrage Democrats who welcomed the opportunity to work across the aisle after being shut out of the process for much of this year.

Murray had made major concessions over the past few days, opting to allow what an aide referred to as “significant state flexibility” measures in the package.

“We identified significant common ground and I made some tough concessions to move in Chairman Alexander’s direction,” Murray said in a statement. “I am disappointed that Republican leaders have decided to freeze this bipartisan approach and are trying to jam through a partisan Trumpcare bill. But I am confident that we can reach a deal if we keep working together — and I am committed to getting that done.”

The effort was viewed as a long-shot attempt from the beginning, though senators from both sides of the aisle would not rule out the possibility that Murray and Alexander, who have reached a number of bipartisan agreements on substantial legislation, could do so again.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this story.

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Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Tom O’Halleran

Freshman Rep. Tom O’Halleran, 71, a Democrat from Arizona, talked about his days working homicide cases, lessons learned from being a police officer, and college basketball.

Q: What has surprised you about Congress so far?

A: I spent eight years in the [Arizona] Legislature, and I’ve been disappointed in the fact that we haven’t had as much ability to work together across party lines. My history — I was a Republican in the Legislature and a Democrat now. I’ve always found a way to work across party lines, and so far, that hasn’t been able to be done. You can sign on to bipartisan bills, you can talk to as many Republicans as you want, but the structure is very difficult to work within.

[Take Five: Mike Johnson]

Q: What was the transition like from a detective to a politician?

A: I had a little thing in between as far as my business life. Whether as a police officer or as a bond trader or a consultant or where I am now, the skill set that I learned as a police officer was key. The ability to read people quickly, develop relationships, think fast, not be intimidated — those are all attributes that carry through to today.

Q: You were an undercover narcotics detective. Do you have any stories you can share?

A: I did that for a while, yes — long hair, long beard. Those stories, I think, are kind of mundane. I think the better stories are in relation to homicide because you’re able to work a case over time, you develop a relationship with the families of the victims, you’re getting people off the street that are, in many cases, involved in gangs, and they would probably do something again in relationship to either shootings or serious crimes, and you have a better opportunity to protect society. It’s always fun to talk about different kinds of issues you did when you were undercover, but next to homicide, it really is kind of mundane. It’s dangerous, but it’s mundane. It’s the same thing every time. You’re trying to get somebody to a higher level to be able to arrest a supplier versus a dealer.

[Take Five: Ro Khanna]

Q: I heard you’re a University of Arizona basketball fan. How did that come about?

A: When I was living in Chicago, where I grew up, I was eight years old and my uncle used to take us to doubleheaders, they were called. At the beginning of the season, college teams traveled all over to these tournaments, and usually the tournaments included teams from the West, and Arizona was one of those teams every year. So I started becoming a U of A fan almost right away, and the more I got to learn about U of A, the more I got to learn about Arizona and the Southwest, and there’s where I ended up in life.

[Take Five: Jimmy Gomez]

Q: You have four grandchildren. What do you like to do with them?

A: [They're] 11, 3, 2, and almost 1. Play. See how they’ve come along. They live in Chicago, so the opportunity comes about pretty frequently on holidays. We get them maybe six, seven times a year, and they come and visit also. Grandchildren are great, as are children.

[Take Five: Trey Hollingsworth]

Last book read: “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” by Jon Meacham.

Last movie seen: “Anything dealing with John Wayne is a movie that my wife will say, ‘You’ve seen that 10 times already.’”

Favorite song of all time: The song I like to listen to when I need a little downtime is the theme song from “Out of Africa.”

Role models: Theodore Roosevelt, because I think he’s somebody that when you looked at him in the face and shook his hand on a deal, you know you had a deal.

Closest to in Congress: Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., is a guy you can sit down with and laugh all day long, and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif.

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Heard on the Hill

‘Native Gardens’ Explores Race and Class Divides

By Eric Garcia
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Capitol Ink | Newton’s Cradle

By Robert Matson

Podcast: Lifting the Spending Caps

By David Lerman
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HAYWARD, Wis. — On the banks of Moose Lake, Sen. Tammy Baldwin served meals from a food truck purchased by the local senior resource center and expanded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Later, Baldwin heard from constituents concerned about President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the very same USDA program. She vowed to fight those and other suggested funding reductions from her perch on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

This is not the conversation you would expect in Sawyer County. Not in Trump country.

Part of a sea of red in the state, the county went for the former reality TV star over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election by just over 18 points. The same county voted 50.9 percent for Baldwin in 2012.

But for some Trump-backers in the area, his allure is fading.

“I’d like to see them get things done in Washington. To a certain degree, I’m disappointed in Trump — too much tweeting,” said Bob Johnson, a registered Republican. “I like to see good politicians; I don’t care if they are Democrats or Republican.”

These are the voters the incumbent senator must court for her re-election bid next year.

Like several of her fellow Democrats facing a difficult race in 2018 in states that went for Trump, Baldwin is toeing the same line: Try to embrace parts of the president’s “America First” mantra that helped secure the White House while making sure not to alienate a Democratic base that expects substantial resistance to an administration bent on rolling back many of former President Barack Obama’s domestic achievements.

For Baldwin though, Trump’s main talking points sound familiar. She highlights them as goals she has fought for since before entering the federal government.

“If you look back at my campaign in 2012, you would hear me talking about leveling the playing field for Wisconsin workers … ‘Buy America’ policies to make sure that when we are using taxpayer dollars, that we are supporting U.S. products and U.S. workers,” she said during a recent interview. “Four years later, that same hard-working Wisconsinite heard ‘Buy America, Hire America’ from the current president.”

“I’m not going to change who I am when I run for re-election,” Baldwin added. “We need action to follow up his words. But when I’m running for re-election, they are going to see action following up my words.”

And the senator is looking for credit for those actions.

“The demarcation I want is, I got there first. When he was still a reality television star, I was working to add ‘Buy America’ provisions to important bills,” she said.

Baldwin knows the state well. She won her Senate seat in 2012 with 51 percent over former Gov. Tommy Thompson, after seven terms in the House. Trump won the state with 48 percent, beating Hillary Clinton by just over 22,000 votes.

Wisconsinites last year also re-elected Sen. Ron Johnson, who took 50 percent, 2 points higher than what Trump received.

“Senator Baldwin’s record reflects the very liberal Washington elitism that Wisconsinites just rejected,” Alec Zimmerman, communications director for the Wisconsin GOP, said in a statement. “In 2018 Republican reformers will stand in stark contrast to Senator Baldwin, who continues to put Washington ahead of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin politics has always been somewhat of a wild card, sandwiched between historically Democratic-leaning Minnesota and Illinois.

Voters in the Badger State elected Baldwin to her seat in 2012 as the first openly gay lawmaker to serve in the Senate, as well as the first woman elected to the chamber from Wisconsin.

Those same voters have also kept Gov. Scott Walker — who has pushed to allow states to ban gay marriage — in office since 2010. One of the more conservative governors, Walker survived a recall election in 2012 and won again in 2014 with just over 52 percent of the vote.

Despite the conservative forces in the state, Baldwin has maintained her liberal tilt more so than some of her colleagues. Unlike, say, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who is also up for re-election next year in a state Trump won, Baldwin voted against the president’s choice for the open Supreme Court position, Neil Gorsuch.

She also co-sponsored a bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, to create a single-payer health care system in the U.S. In doing so, she aligned firmly with the left wing of her party, something Republicans immediately pounced on.

“After suffering through the disastrous results of Obamacare, a $32 trillion socialist health care system is the last thing Wisconsinites want or need,” Katie Martin, communication director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a release. “Folks in Wisconsin deserve to know why Tammy Baldwin is putting them at risk to support the left’s radical plans for government-run health care.”

But Baldwin does plan to support the president when it aligns with her priorities.

“When Trump campaigned on things that I had campaigned on for two decades — and that I not just campaigned on, worked on and have accomplishments on — I’m not going to go against things that I have been championing,” Baldwin said.

She has perhaps taken a more strategic approach to her resistance and sought to capitalize on Trump’s often-vague promises and the positions he espoused during the presidential campaign to push her own policies.

A key example is the carried interest loophole, something that Trump has decried but is absent from the draft tax plans released by the administration.

“I would love him to help me pass that bill; I would love it to be a part of the larger tax debate,” Baldwin said.

Looking ahead to next year, Baldwin anticipates a big focus on the field effort, bolstered by the recent “Better Deal” agenda that Senate Democrats rolled out earlier this year. That agenda aims to raise wages, create jobs and lower the cost of living for families.

“I know that’s not messaging, that’s an agenda, but obviously messages flow from the agenda,” she said. “I think it’s really vital and it’s going to be really vital that it be echoed and amplified not necessarily as a partisan issue but ... when people are knocking at the doors.”

It remains to be seen how that agenda will resonate with voters. Almost every Wisconsinite asked to weigh in on it said they had not heard of the “Better Deal.”

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If you were a member of Congress, especially a Republican member of Congress, you could be forgiven for having at least some contempt for President Donald Trump.

He’s used the GOP-led Congress as a punching bag and a scapegoat. He demands absolute loyalty from Republican members, but abandoned them last week the moment he saw an opening to strike a deal to raise the debt ceiling with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

He’s called Republicans losers and flakes. He’s defamed their parents and insulted their spouses. He dispatched a Cabinet secretary to threaten Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, after she blocked an Obamacare repeal bill and told his 36 million Twitter followers that Tennessee is “not happy!” with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., after Corker voiced concern about Trump’s fitness for office. He has openly courted primary challengers to run against members of his own party, even the ones who have voted for almost all of his agenda.

So it’s ironic that, in more ways than one, Congress is living its best life under Trump. After years of partisan gridlock, bills are moving, or at least being debated. Long-sidelined committees are doing essential work. And in a town where party politics has swamped almost every other governing instinct, members of Congress are showing more real independence to speak their minds and vote accordingly.

Somehow, all of the dysfunction between the Republican House and Senate and Trump’s White House has created a Congress that is showing signs of functioning again. In Oprah parlance, Congress is becoming its best self. In Trump verbiage, Congress is making itself great again.

In the last two weeks alone, Congress has quickly approved disaster relief, raised the debt ceiling and dispensed with a government shutdown weeks before the deadline, three items they’ve struggled with for years. Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., struck a five-year funding deal in the Senate Finance Committee to extend CHIP funding for five years.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., are holding hearings to repair, not replace, Obamacare. Speaker Paul Ryan and Pelosi are meeting with House leaders on a DACA bill that has tied Congress in knots for the last five years.

Committee chairmen are leading in their areas of expertise, leaders are meeting to strike deals, and the legislative branch is finally legislating.

A significant piece of the new dynamic has been Congress stepping up as a co-equal branch of government to rein in and even reject the president when he has said or done things few people can explain, even his fellow Republicans.

That was certainly the case when Democrats and Republicans acted almost unanimously, 517-votes strong, to strengthen sanctions against Russia for hacking American election systems, even when Trump made it clear he didn’t want to.

That was also the case when the House and Senate unanimously passed a joint resolution, which the president must sign, to denounce white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Klu Klux Klan and other hate groups who caused the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.

Standing up for the country, despite the president’s objections, seems to be the primary motivation behind the Russian hacking investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been serious, disciplined, and bipartisan. And that was absolutely the thinking behind Sen. John McCain’s extraordinary op-ed last month reminding his fellow members of Congress that they don’t work for Trump.

“We must, where we can, cooperate with him,” McCain wrote in The Washington Post. “But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people.”

As much as Republicans in Congress are acting out against Trump, he has been acting out against them, too, beyond just mean tweets. Frustrated by slow Republican progress on his agenda, Trump decided to skip the headaches of a GOP-only deal last week and strike the debt ceiling deal with Pelosi and Schumer, over the objections of his own Cabinet officials. It wasn’t what Republicans wanted, but the deal got done. The crisis was averted, and for once, Congress and the president avoided a self-inflicted wound.

Almost despite himself, Trump has made Congress free enough to act in the country’s best interests and independent enough to act against their own president, no matter their affiliation, if that’s what it takes.

He’s strengthening the resolve of the one group that can make him a success or take him down.

A stronger, more independent Congress may not always be in this president’s best interests, but it is in the country’s best interests, and we have Donald Trump to thank for it.

Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.

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A looming showdown over a Senate tradition could strip senators of a de facto veto power over nominees to federal appeals courts — and give President Donald Trump less reason to consult with senators about which judges should be appointed.

The Judiciary Committee’s “blue slip” process has required senators to return a blue slip of paper before the committee schedules hearings and markups of nominees for federal judgeships from their home states. No slip, no hearing. That has made it essential for the White House to get a senator’s buy-in on a nomination.

But as Democrats oppose many of Trump’s picks for the bench, Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley has signaled he might end that tradition for federal appeals court choices if Democrats stand in the way.

The Iowa Republican has said the practice is not a hard-and-fast rule, and he will soon face a decision on whether the committee will move forward on two different appeals court picks without blue slips.

Democrat Al Franken announced Tuesday that he would not return a blue slip for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit based in St. Louis.

Franken said in a written statement that Stras would be a “deeply conservative jurist” on an already conservative appeals court that covers Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“But rather than work together to select a nominee who is a judicial moderate, the White House had already settled on Justice Stras before first approaching me, and the president nominated him despite the concerns that I expressed,” Franken said in a written statement.

And on Thursday, Oregon’s two Democratic senators took only a few hours after the White House nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Bounds to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to announce they would not return blue slips.

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley wrote a letter to the White House that they can’t return a blue slip for any nominee who hasn’t been approved by the state’s bipartisan judicial selection committee. They criticized the White House for demonstrating “that you were only interested in our input if we were willing to preapprove your preferred nominee.”

“Disregarding this Oregon tradition returns us to the days of nepotism and patronage that harmed our courts and placed unfit judges on the bench,” Wyden and Merkley state in their letter. “The judicial selection process is not a rubber stamp, and the insinuation that our offices were purposefully delaying the process is an indication of the partisanship with which you are pursuing this nomination.”

The 9th Circuit includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii.

For now, Grassley has other nominees to send through the confirmation process before he has to make the call on whether to side with his Democratic colleagues and not move the nominees, or side with the White House and proceed with Stras and Bounds.

In May, Grassley said the blue slip process is historically more respected for district court judges — which cover districts that stay within state borders — than the circuit judges that cover multiple states.

“It’s much more a White House decision on circuit judges than the district court judges,” Grassley said during an interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program. “I mean this is going to be an individual case-by-case decision, but it leads me to say that there’s going to have to be a less strict use or obligation to the blue slip policy for circuit, because that’s the way it’s been.”

Still, certain seats on appeals courts have by tradition been from certain states. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on Judiciary, said the blue slips were honored when Republican senators didn’t return them on President Barack Obama’s nominees.

“In 2016 alone, President Obama’s nominations of Abdul Kallon for the Eleventh Circuit, Justice Myra Selby for the Seventh Circuit, Rebecca Haywood for the Third Circuit and Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes for the Sixth Circuit didn’t move forward because they didn’t receive two blue slips,” Feinstein said in a written statement.

“It’s the prerogative of home-state senators to evaluate potential federal judicial nominees and determine whether or not they are mainstream and well-suited to hold these important positions of public trust, which have real-world consequences for their constituents,” Feinstein said. “The purpose of the blue slip is to ensure consultation between the White House and home-state senators on judicial nominees from their states.”

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Tax Timeline Meets Dearth of Details for GOP

By Lindsey McPherson












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