More filibuster reform needed

The Senate blue slip rule still allows too much obstructionism.

Ronald Dixon

Sen. Harry Reid and other Senate Democrats recently reformed the filibuster in an effort to limit Republicans from blocking routine appointee confirmations. However, Democrats should go further and get rid of a dated loophole that could still slow appointee confirmation.

Congressional Democrats eliminated the ability to use filibusters to block most judicial and executive branch appointment nominees, because Republicans consistently dragged their feet in debate. The changes came after the GOP blocked a string of Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month.

The reform is necessary due to the filibuster’s rising popularity. Legislators filibustered executive and judicial appointees 168 times since the first filibuster in 1837. Half of these filibusters have happened during the Obama administration. These filibusters make the process of filling vacant government positions an inefficient debacle.

“My judicial nominees have waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor,” Obama said in a speech at the White House last month.

Although the reform mitigates Republicans’ intransience on appointees, the GOP could still utilize a loophole to prevent Obama from filling government positions. 

The loophole, or blue slip rule, dates back to 1917 and allows senators to block judicial appointees in their home state. If, for example, a Republican senator disapproved of an appointee, they would simply have to withhold support to derail the process.

A Brookings Institute study showed that Republican senators disproportionately represent states with vacancies and without nominees. The study’s author wrote these senators are “objecting to nominees floated by the administration, insisting on nominees unacceptable to the administration or simply slow-walking the process.”

Congressional Democrats must take initiative and strip the blue slip rule from law in order to improve government efficiency and help fill vacancies.