If you believe the Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., of today, tradition is what keeps the U.S. Senate, and by extension, the federal court system, running smoothly. Thus he and Sen. Ron Wyden, also D-Ore., have said they’ll block the appointment of Ryan Bounds, an assistant U.S. attorney, to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
They’re relying on tradition, not law, to try to derail the nomination of the Hermiston native to replace Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, one of two Oregon judges on the court. He retired at the end of last year. Tradition or law, the move could deny Oregonians one of two representatives on the court.
Merkley and Wyden argue that the tradition of blue-slipping, which allows a nominee’s home-state senator to reject a nomination by objecting to it on a blue slip of paper, must be honored. But while the practice is not new — it was first used in 1917 — its use is neither required nor set in stone, and, in fact, has changed from time to time and been ignored from time to time.
The senators’ fight to have what amounts to veto power over the Bounds nomination is no doubt doomed. Merkley and Wyden would lose if the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, decides to ignore their blue slips.
They’d lose, too, as would all Oregonians, if President Donald Trump withdrew the nomination and appointed a judge from Idaho or another securely Republican state to the court, as some Republicans have hinted he might. The tradition that says two judges will come from each state would be ended, and Oregonians’ influence there diminished as a result.