Last week, the New York Times ran an editorial renouncing blue slips, a practice by which a senator may delay or in some cases block a nominee from his or her home state. Ed Whelan has ably discussed the editorial in some detail over at Bench Memos here, and here, and
here. While reasonable academic debate can be had regarding the blue slip policy, the New York Times editorial page has now joined both sides of that debate, although their interest is clearly less academic, and more political. Thus, under a new Obama presidency, the Times now proclaims: “Blue slips have no constitutional basis, are undemocratic and are subject to abuse” and “should be allowed to die a quiet death.” What did the Times think of the abuse argument during the Bush administration? I’m glad you asked: “[P]ast abuse does not mean the Democrats should now abandon the blue slip policy completely and give the Republicans carte blanche . . . .” NYT (editorial), April. 27, 2001, A24. In the wake of Bush’s first nominations to the bench (which included nominating two Clinton nominees), the Times reiterated its support for the blue slip: “A key is for the Democrats to stand firm on enforcing the prerogative under the so-called blue-slip policy that allows any senator to block a nominee from his home state.” NYT (editorial), May 11, 2001, A34. As I said, a reasonable, academic debate can be had regarding the use of blue slips, but the New York Times’s comedy of contradictory positions shows that it is less interested in the debate over “constitutional basis,” and far more interested in political outcomes.