U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., took aim at Georgia's two Republican U.S. senators today over concerns raised by members of the Congressional Black Caucus that not enough African-Americans are being nominated to the federal bench in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Norton, co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus' Judicial Nominations working group, released a joint statement with chairwoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio.
In her statement, Norton blamed "the unusually high number of federal judicial vacancies" on the blue slip process – a senatorial courtesy that has stalled confirmation hearings for presidential nominees by requiring both of a nominee's home state senators to signal either their approval or lack of objection by returning a 'blue slip' to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
Norton said that the blue slip process "is being used to keep qualified African-American nominees from being nominated or moving forward."
She said the Congressional Black Caucus would hold the Republican senators from Alabama, Georgia and Florida, including Georgia Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, "equally responsible if African Americans the administration desires cannot be nominated or are nominated by the Administration and are then unfairly held up with use of the blue slip system."
"We intend to not only hold the senators responsible, but to inform their constituents in the 11th Circuit, and other circuits, who are dependent on them – and us – to ensure the fair appointment of judges," she continued.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida, is headquartered in Atlanta.
Norton also said that although the Congressional Black Caucus "recognizes that Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, has worked very hard to get the administration's nominees through his committee and to the floor," members of the black caucus have asked to meet with Leahy "in light of the use of the blue slip process in the Judiciary Committee and what can be done to see that this process is not used to veto the Administration's nominations."
The nomination of Jill Pryor, a partner at Atlanta's Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, for a seat on the Eleventh Circuit, has been stalled for two years by Chambliss and Isakson, who have consistently refused to return a blue slip for Pryor to the Senate judiciary committee.
The two senators have reportedly agreed to set aside their objections to Pryor as part of a package deal they cut with the White House counsel.