|Charles A. Culberson||TX||Dem||1913-1919||Blue slip policy 1913-1917 unknown, but from the first known blue slip onward a negative/nonreturned blue slip did not necessarily kill a nomination.|
|Knute Nelson||MN||Rep||1919-1923||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Frank B. Brandegee||CT||Rep||1923-1924||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Albert B. Cummins||IA||Rep||1924-1926||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|George W. Norris||NE||Rep||1926-1933||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Henry F. Ashurst||AZ||Dem||1933-1941||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Frederick Van Nuys||IN||Dem||1941-1945||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Patrick McCarran||NV||Dem||1945-1947||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Alexander Wiley||WI||Rep||1947-1949||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Patrick McCarran||NV||Dem||1949-1953||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|William Langer||ND||Rep||1953-1955||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Harley M. Kilgore||WV||Dem||1955-1956||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|James O. Eastland||MS||Dem||1956-1978||Negative/nonreturned blue slip meant a hearing would not be held and nomination would halt.|
|Edward Kennedy J.||MA||Dem||1979-1981||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination.|
|Strom Thurmond||SC||Rep||1981-1987||Nonreturned blue slip did not necessarily kill a nomination; in practice neither did a negative blue slip.|
|Joseph R. Biden||DE||Dem||1987-1995||Nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination; negative blue slip only had an impact if the administration failed to consult with senators prior to nomination.|
|Orrin G. Hatch||UT||Rep||1995-2001||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not kill a nomination unless the administration had not consulted both home-state senators.|
|Patrick J. Leahy||VT||Dem||2001-2003||Negative/nonreturned blue slip meant a hearing would not be held and nomination would halt.|
|Orrin G. Hatch||UT||Rep||2003-2005||Negative/nonreturned blue slip did not necessarily kill a nomination as long as chairman believed both home-state senators received consultation|
|Arlen Specter||PA||Rep||2005-2007||Negative blue slip killed a nomination for district court judges, but not necessarily for circuit court judges.|
|Patrick J. Leahy||VT||Dem||2007-||Negative/nonreturned blue slip meant a hearing would not be held and nomination would halt.|
How the chairmen have handled negative blue slips has varied throughout the Committee's history. When a negative blue slip is received or an objection is raised by not returning the blue slip, "the chairman may take the following actions on the nominee: (1) stop all committee proceedings; (2) move forward but give added weight to the unfavorable review; or (3) proceed without notice of the negative review" (Sollenberger 2003, 4). In more recent times, chairmen have also held differing policies on whether a single senator's objection to a nominee may stop the confirmation process or whether both home state senators must object (Sollenberger 2003, Slotnick 2006). Because the blue slip is an informal rule of the Committee, the chair has a great deal of discretion in the administration the blue slip. Indeed, in our examination of nomination files, we noted some chairman regularly enforced the seven-day period to return blue slips while others did not. Further, some chairman persistently followed up if a blue slip was not returned by calling the senators office.
From 1917 to 1955 a negative blue slip "did not give a Senator an absolute right to block a judicial nomination and prevent committee action... Instead, a Senator's negative assessment of a nominee was meant to express to the committee his views on the nominee so that the chairman would be better prepared to deal with the review of the nomination" (Sollenberger 2003, 8-9). However, most nominations objected to by a senator received an adverse recommendation from the Judiciary Committee and were later rejected by the full Senate (Sollenberger 2003). Further, the failure to return the blue slip meant that the senator had "no objection" to the nominee.
This policy changed, however, in 1956 when Senator James O. Eastland became chair of the Committee. During Eastland's tenure, which lasted until 1978 "blue slips were handled as absolute vetoes by Senators" over judicial nominations (Sollenberger 2003, 9) and non-returned blue slips were also treated as an objection to the nomination. Additionally, a negative blue slip (returned or not) no longer meant a nomination would simply be reported adversely out of the Committee. It meant that the Committee would halt all action on the nomination (Sollenberger 2003b). Since 1978, the variation in blue slip policies has grown. Some chairs have required negative blue slips from both home state senators to block a judicial nomination while others have required only one. Some have treated a non-returned blue slip as equal to a negative blue slip while others have treated it as the senator having "no objection" to the nominee. Further, the stated and practiced blue slip policies of the Judiciary Committee chairs were often different and at times contradictory (Sollenberger 2011; Sollenberger 2003; Campisano 2009). The table below charts how the chairs have altered the blue slip throughout its history.