Friday, April 20, 2012 | 3:45 p.m.
Sen. Harry Reid intensified his campaign today to get his choice for the federal bench, Elissa Cadish, a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee after Sen. Dean Heller renewed his opposition.
Heller has refused to return a so-called blue slip, which, traditionally, both of a state’s senators must sign to move a nominee forward. But what exactly is the process, and why won’t Heller let Cadish have her day in the Senate?
It’s not so simple because it’s the Club of 100.
Here’s what’s happening – and if you need background, it is here :
After Cadish and Heller met this morning for a half-hour in Las Vegas – “I love guns, senator” “Not enough for me, judge” – Heller put out a statement:
“I respect Judge Cadish and believe she has had many great accomplishments in her career. However, I cannot support her nomination as a federal judge. I believe an individual citizen has the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and cannot in good conscience support a nominee whose commitment to the Constitution’s Second Amendment is in doubt.”
No surprise. Reid backed Heller into a corner on the meeting, so he sat down with her, pretended to listen and then put out the statement that could have been written beforehand.
Fine. This we knew would occur.
But shortly after Heller put out his statement, Reid put out one of his own, turning up the pressure -- or so he hopes:
“Judge Cadish is exceptionally qualified to serve on Nevada’s federal bench, and I strongly stand by her nomination. The unprecedented refusal to allow Judge Cadish a hearing to answer questions and explain her views is not fair to Nevadans who deserve to hear what she has to say.
“Judge Cadish is being unfairly targeted for an answer on a 2008 questionnaire that was completed prior to a recent Supreme Court ruling on the issue, and reflected the state of the law at the time. She has clearly stated she will uphold the law and follow binding Supreme Court precedent on the Second Amendment.
“Judge Cadish has the enthusiastic support of many Nevadans in the legal community, including her mentor Judge Pro, who was nominated by President Reagan and whose seat she would fill if confirmed. Judge Pro believes that Judge Cadish deserves a hearing, and I agree.”
So why doesn’t Heller just let Cadish have a hearing, especially since it’s highly unlikely she would ever get confirmed?
Let’s lay this out.
The blue slip is a tradition, and one that has almost never been broken – and not once during the tenure of Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy. I have posted the blue slip Heller did sign – for Miranda Du – at right, so you can see the wording. It is not ambiguous:
“Please give me your opinion concerning the following nomination now pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.” And then the senator is asked to check either “I approve” or “I oppose” on the form.
Heller did not check “I oppose” but simply has refused to sign the slip, which is the equivalent of opposition because Leahy won’t move a nomination through the committee without slips signed by both senators.
Reid insists Heller can just allow a hearing to take place and not support Cadish. Indeed, and strangely, the committee site has this language:
“They are provided a ‘blue slip’ by the Committee, by which they can approve moving the nominee through the Committee process. It is important to note, however, that the return of a positive ‘blue slip’ is not a commitment by either home state Senator to support or oppose, a pending nomination.”
Only in the U.S. Senate could something this Carrollian exist – if Heller signed and checked “I oppose” he would be opposing her nomination but would not be committed to oppose her? (I actually believe Heller wanted to do all of this quietly, not embarrass Reid and not have it play out in the media. That horse has galloped out of the barn now, though.)
The truth is that Leahy could hold a hearing on Cadish, no matter what Heller does. It would be a striking break with his tradition, but if Cadish is as “exceptionally qualified” as Reid says she is, maybe it’s time for him to tap Leahy on the shoulder.
Heller surely is not going to change his mind. And Reid seems steadfast in his refusal to withdraw Cadish – nor does she seem to want to recede – so here we are, with both sides holding their breath until they turn blue in the face -- until sometime after November, I’d guess.