Washington — Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters said Friday they have returned blue slips for Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, allowing her nomination to the federal appellate bench to advance without saying whether they would vote for her.

The Senate Judiciary Committee traditionally waits on a nominee’s home state senators to submit blue slips consenting to their moving forward with hearings.

Republicans in recent weeks claimed that Stabenow and Peters were keeping Larsen from making her case to the Senate. The senators said they were taking time to thoroughly review her record and background materials.

Larsen was nominated by President Donald Trump to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May. She met with both senators in Washington last week.

“Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments,” Stabenow said in a statement.

“As part of my constitutional duty, I have consulted with Michigan’s legal community, reviewed Justice Larson’s background and qualifications and, most recently, personally met with her. My meeting with Justice Larson was productive.”

Stabenow of Lansing added that she looks forward to hearing more from Larsen during her confirmation hearing, and that she would continue to evaluate her nomination.

Peters said he also expects to learn more about Larsen during the upcoming confirmation process.

“Federal judges make critical decisions that can directly impact the lives of Michiganders, and the Senate has an important constitutional responsibility to thoroughly review all nominees,” said Peters of Bloomfield Township.

“I appreciated having the opportunity to meet with Justice Larsen in person recently, and I will continue to do my due diligence and evaluate her qualifications and judicial approach along with my Senate colleagues.”

Larsen, 48, formerly taught at the University of Michigan Law School and was a member of the Federalist Society who clerked for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. This spring, she received the American Bar Association’s top rating of “well qualified.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, applauded the senators for advancing the nomination of Larsen, who lives in Scio Township and is one of Walberg’s constituents.

“I’m very pleased to see Joan Larsen’s confirmation process finally moving forward. Joan is a brilliant legal scholar, revered by her colleagues and an incredibly qualified candidate for the Sixth Circuit,” Walberg said.

“I’m confident Joan’s sterling credentials will shine through during the Senate’s process and, once confirmed, she will continue to serve with distinction and stewardship of the Constitution on the federal bench.”

Unlike the administrations of Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush, Trump’s White House did not consult with Michigan’s senators in advance of Larsen’s nomination. Officials notified the senators without seeking input on Larsen.

“I think that this shows that the Michigan senators were doing their due diligence and comprehensively vetted the nominee, even meeting personally with her, and were satisfied with what they learned,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who studies the federal judiciary. “... This shows the criticisms of the senators for foot dragging were wrong and unfair.

The Senate has left town for its August recess, so Larsen’s hearings won’t be held until after lawmakers return in September.

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