Chatter: Franken At Center Is Judicial Nomination Spat

The U.S. Senate’s top Republican is determined to fill empty judge seats, even if it means rolling over Sen. Al Franken.

The Minnesota Democrat is using a Senate tradition to stop the confirmation of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the federal appeals court. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is tired of the tactic and promises to find a way around it.

The tradition is that senators from a judicial nominee’s home state hand in a “blue slip,” meaning they support the nomination moving head. But Franken will not turn in the Stras blue slip because he does not support the justice.

Franken said he considers the Stas nomination to be part of President Donald Trump’s attempt to stack the federal courts with right-wing judges. Stras was considered a conservative when then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, put him on Minnesota’s high court.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has said she would support holding a Senate hearing for Stras, but has not said if she would vote for his confirmation.

Only a few federal judges have won confirmation without support of their home state senators in the past century.

Before the election, Trump said that Stras, 43, was on his shortlist for U.S. Supreme Court nominees.

The Washington Post reports that conservative groups are pushing McConnell to take action on Trump nominees.

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., wrote in The Hill publication that “our founders didn’t want Congress to be able to grind the gears of government to a halt over political disagreements with the president. But they also didn’t want the president’s powers to be absolute and unaccountable.”

Daschle said that traditionally presidents consult with home state senators on judicial vacancies,which did not happen with Stras. “Importantly, this is no mere courtesy, but rather a way to make the nomination process less partisan and more collaborative.”

Minnesotans sworn in

A Pipestone, Minn., native now is the No. 2 person in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a former Mankato resident has taken a newly created job as coordinator of agriculture trade in the department.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue swore Steve Censky in as his deputy on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in front of a portrait of former ag secretary Ed Schafer of North Dakota. Censky will be in charge of the department on a day-to-day basis. He comes from the American Soybean Association, but also served both President Bushes in the USDA.

Censky grew up on a southwest Minnesota farm.

Ted McKinney, who served as Indiana agriculture director, took the new job of dealing with foreign trade with the words: “Our message to American farmers is, you grow it and we’ll sell it.”

He is a former Mankato resident.

Politicians’ ratings down

Minnesota’s political leaders likely are not surprised that a poll shows they have lost some popularity among voters.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders are locked in a court battle over a Dayton veto of legislative funding, which could shut down the Legislature.

A KSTP-SurveyUSA poll shows the governor’s approval rating is at 47 percent, down from 51 percent 11 months ago. Legislators’ popularity fell to 27 percent down from 30 percent.

The poll indicated that many people do not know much about the court case.

More E15 available

Most Minnesota gasoline pumps provide fuel with 10 percent corn-based ethanol, but more stations now offer fuel with 15 percent ethanol.

Growth Energy announced that more than 140 stations in Minnesota sell E15, double the number a year ago.

Dayton: Health good

Dayton has faced his share of illnesses, and as recently as Wednesday, Oct. 11, canceled a meeting with a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers general.

But he reports his health is good for someone in his 70s.

“It’s good,” he said. “My latest cancer screening shows there is no sign of it returning.”

Doctors removed his prostate earlier this year when it was discovered to be cancerous.

He also fainted during his State of the State speech, a situation blamed on dehydration. The governor said the latest test show he was well hydrated.

Dayton watchers know he is unsteady on his feet due to a spinal issue. He said a recent test showed the problem has not healed right, but don’t expect him to go under the knife for it.

“I doubt I will do anything else,” he said about surgery.