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Tough Election Cycles Leave Rift in Relationship Between Reid, Heller

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Reid and Heller continue to diverge on some judicial nominations, including that of Cadish to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

Cadish did not even get a hearing in the Judiciary Committee last year because Heller did not return a “blue slip” signaling his approval to the committee. Asked recently whether he expected his concerns to prompt a withdrawal of the nomination, the junior senator from Nevada said, “I am not changing my position, so” it’s unclear.

However, Heller’s spokeswoman said, “Both Sen. Reid and Sen. Heller are working to better coordinate on future nominations.”

Reid’s spokeswoman confirmed that discussions are ongoing and noted that last month the majority leader declined to elaborate on how he and Heller planned to get past the judicial nominations issue.

“That is something we do among ourselves,” Reid said at a meeting of the state’s congressional delegation.

President Barack Obama first nominated Cadish in February 2012 and renominated her in January.

Heller has also yet to return the blue slip for Jennifer Dorsey, a Nevada lawyer who has been nominated to join the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. She was initially nominated in September and was renominated in January.

“He is continuing to review the Dorsey nomination,” Heller’s spokeswoman said.

Blue slips are a courtesy extended to home-state senators for judicial nominees. The home-state senator is expected to give the Judiciary chairman his thoughts on the particular nominee. In practice, the committee usually declines to take up a nomination unless blue slips from both home-state members are returned, and that has been particularly true under Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.

The Senate is poised to consider the nomination of Andrew Gordon, who was also nominated to join the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. The Judiciary Committee cleared his nomination — backed by both Heller and Reid — last month.

Though Reid and Heller’s relationship remains strained, Reid worked closely with former Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., with whom he served for 10 years. Heller was picked to fill Ensign’s seat after he resigned in 2011.

Reid had brokered a nonaggression pact with Ensign, but there is no such deal with Heller, sources close to the junior senator said.

Nevertheless, the two men are co-sponsors of a lands bill involving Yerington, Nev., and they, like many Senate delegations, co-host “Welcome to Washington” breakfasts for constituents. Another area of agreement is killing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project, something both lawmakers mentioned in press releases prompted by the nomination of Ernest Moniz to be Energy secretary.

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