Live from Minnesota, it's Sen. Al Franken's night.
The former Saturday Night Live star is rising in American politics after he effectively blocked President Trump's nomination to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Franken has withheld his "blue slip" approval of the nominee, Judge David Stras, forcing even staunch Democrats to concede the point.
"The purpose of the blue slip is to ensure consultation between the White House and home-state senators on judicial nominees from their states," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. "I expect the committee to honor Sen. Franken's decision not to return a blue slip, as was always done when Republican senators didn't return blue slips on President Obama's nominees."
"Blue Slip" Tradition
The "blue slip" is a tradition whereby senators can give their blessing to judicial nominees from their home state. While denying a blue slip does not keep a judge from being approved, it is a strong tradition that has stopped nominations in the past.
Glenn Sugameli, an expert on judicial nominations, told Business Insider in an email that "no circuit court nominees have been confirmed over objection of one (or two) home state senators -- including under Obama."
Stras, who serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court, is a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a devoted student of Justice Antonin Scalia. Franken is concerned that Stras would follow in their footsteps.
"I really grew up with a steady diet of Justice Scalia, and I'm better for it," Stras reportedly told the Federalist Society.
Scared of Scalia
Franken said on Facebook that Scalia embraced a "rigid view of the Constitution," favored powerful corporate interests, was "blind to the equal dignity of LGBT people," and frequently refused to acknowledge laws that "perpetuated the racial divide."
"The president should be seeking out judges who bridge the issues that divide us, but I fear that Justice Stras's views and philosophy would lead him to reinforce those divisions and steer the already conservative Eighth Circuit even further to the right," he said.
Minnesota's other senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, said Stras deserves a hearing but that he wasn't her choice for the appeals court. According to reports, Franken's opposition could "set up a major fight within the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee."