WASHINGTON – Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken continue to drag their feet on the nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to fill a vacancy on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Back in May, President Donald Trump nominated Stras to the federal court seat. However, almost four months later, Stras’ nomination is still pending as Klobuchar and Franken refuse to return their blue slips in approval of the nominee.
In a turn-of-the-century tradition, the blue slip is a piece of paper sent to a senator by the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when the president has nominated an individual from the senator’s home state. The blue slip gives the senator a voice in choosing to support or object the nomination. Without receiving approval from Klobuchar and Franken, Stras’ nomination will not move forward with a confirmation hearing.
While Republicans across the state and the country accuse the Democratic lawmakers of intentionally blocking Stras’ nomination, Klobuchar and Franken stand by their actions. Klobuchar told Minnesota Public Radio News Thursday she is still considering the nomination, and plans to meet with Stras a second time before turning in her blue slip. Klobuchar’s comments echo a statement from Franken’s office earlier last week. A spokesman for Franken said the senator was still reviewing Stras’ “lengthy record,” taking a shot at White House for making the nomination without first consulting his office.
“Rather than discuss how senators traditionally approached circuit court vacancies or talk about a range of potential candidates, the White House made clear its intention to nominate Justice Stras from the outset,” spokesman Michael Dale-Stein said, according to the Associated Press.
Stras’ nomination could be compared to the nomination of then Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright to the U.S. District Court of Minnesota in 2015 by President Barack Obama. In contrast to the months of reviewal Stras has received, Klobuchar returned her blue slip for Wright the day she received it, and Franken turned his in one day later.
Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen joined fellow Republicans voicing their disapproval of how Klobuchar and Franken have handled the nomination. In an op-ed for the Star Tribune, Paulsen took a shot at the senators, accusing Klobuchar and Franken of stonewalling the nomination for political reasons.
“To be clear, Klobuchar’s and Franken’s refusal to return their blue slips has nothing to do with Stras’ merit. There is no dispute that Stras has all the qualifications and attributes to be an outstanding judge,” Paulsen wrote.
“Stalling Stras’ nomination is the latest example of partisan game-playing in Washington,” Paulsen added. “By blocking his confirmation, the senators are keeping an outstanding legal mind off the Eighth Circuit court, and preventing another Minnesotan from joining a court where the majority of judges are from other states. This is unacceptable.”
Before joining the Minnesota Supreme Court, Stras was a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, specializing in federal courts. The American Bar Association (ABA) unanimously rated Stras “well qualified,” the highest rating given by the ABA. Stras was also on Trump’s shortlist to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.