Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) published an editorial last month in support of David Stras, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Paulsen condemned his fellow Minnesotans, Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, for holding up the confirmation process.
As Paulsen explains in his editorial, “Neither senator has returned the “blue slip” necessary for the nomination to move forward. Under Senate tradition, any senator can delay or halt a nominee from the senator’s home state by refusing to return the blue slip to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thus, as long as the Senate follows the blue-slip tradition, Klobuchar and Franken can block Stras from receiving a confirmation hearing simply by refusing to return their blue slips.”
Klobuchar later clarified that she believes Stras deserves a hearing, arguing that “for the vast majority of the cases he has respected precedent and sided with the majority, which has included both Democratic- an
d Republican-appointed judges.”
Klobuchar also expressed concern that the position might go to a “less independent judge from another 8th Circuit state” like Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Nebraska, or Missouri.
Franken, on the other hand, has stood firm in his opposition to Stras. He is especially wary of Stras’ idolization of Justice Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, two of the most conservative Supreme Court justices in modern history. Early in his career, Stras clerked under Thomas, and he’s spoken reverently about Scalia.
“Justice Stras’ professional background and record strongly suggest that, if confirmed, he would embrace the legacy of his role models and reliably rule in favor of powerful corporate interests over working people, and that he would place a high bar before plaintiffs seeking justice at work, at school, and at the ballot box,” Franken said in a statement. “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.”
But Stras, Paulsen argues, is eminently qualified for the position. “He received a well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association, which is the highest recommendation possible,” Paulsen wrote. “He is a renowned expert on federal courts — before joining the Minnesota Supreme Court, Stras was a scholar on federal courts at the University of Minnesota Law School.”
Paulsen further argued that Stras enjoys bipartisan support, citing an open letter penned by 12 former members of Congress who believe Stras is a qualified nominee.
To sum up, a qualified and popular judge isn’t being given a hearing due to what Paulsen has termed “partisan game-playing.”
Sound familiar? It should. Last year, Senate Republicans refused to even consider the appointment of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. The GOP senators argued that it would violate tradition to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in an election year, despite the fact that 14 Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during election years.
Paulsen, for his part, remained silent throughout the Republican stonewalling effort. But the bald hypocrisy of his position has not gone unnoticed. After tweeting that the Democrats are “putting partisanship ahead of an opportunity to put one of Minnesota’s strongest legal minds on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Paulsen’s critics descended to remind him about last year’s Supreme Court kerfuffle.
Does Rep. Paulsen really think the people of Minnesota have such short memories? Or is it that he believes that Minnesotans are so uninformed that they would fail to connect the recent events with the Senate’s refusal to even consider Merrick Garland?
Whatever the case, Paulsen better be ready for disappointment. We remember his silence on the Garland nomination and we certainly won’t forget his hypocrisy on the Stras appointment when we head to the ballot box next year.