01/14/2014 04:18 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Richard Burr Dodges Questions On Why He's Blocking A Judicial Nominee He Previously Supported


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) avoided question after question on Tuesday about why he's blocking a long-stalled judicial nominee who he previously recommended to President Barack Obama.

Burr said in July 2009 that Jennifer May-Parker had "the requisite qualifications to serve with distinction" as a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Obama submitted her nomination to the Senate in June 2013, but she hasn’t moved since because Burr is withholding his "blue slip" to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The blue slip process is a courtesy, not a rule, honored in the committee that allows a home-state senator to advance or block a nominee. Fellow North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D) has already submitted her blue slip.

HuffPost caught up with Burr in the Capitol and asked him why he's holding up May-Parker, who, if confirmed, would fill the longest-standing district court vacancy in the country. The North Carolina judicial seat has been empty since 2005.

"I don't talk about any recommendations I make to the White House. All my conversations are with them," Burr said.

Asked if he still supports May-Parker's nomination, given that he's the one who recommended her to Obama in the first place, Burr demurred.

"All my conversations are with the White House on judicial recommendations," he said.

The North Carolina senator also wouldn't comment on if he plans to submit his blue slip: "I just don't share anything about the judicial nominations process."

An administration official who requested anonymity to speak candidly said the White House is just as perplexed as anyone about why Burr is unilaterally blocking his own nominee.

One thing that's a little unusual in May-Parker's case is that four years passed between the time that Burr recommended her and when the White House sent her nomination to the Senate. A source familiar with her nomination process, who also requested anonymity, said that administration officials and North Carolina senators spent those years going back and forth to find nominees on whom they could all agree. The White House finally vetted May-Parker and agreed to nominate her, expecting Burr's support. The GOP senator has been blocking her ever since.

CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to note that the seat in question is the longest-standing district court vacancy in the country, not the longest-standing court vacancy.



Senate Polarization, 1989-2013