A blue slip or blue-slipping refers to two different legislative procedures in the United States Congress.
In the House, it refers to the rejection slip given to Senate tax and spending bills that have not originated in the House in the first place, per the House's interpretation of the Origination clause.
In the Senate, it refers to slips on which Senators from the state of residence of a federal judicial nominee give an opinion on the nominee.
House of Representatives
The Origination Clause of the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 7, Clause 1) provides that the House of Representatives has exclusive authority to introduce bills raising revenue: "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives." Under House precedent, this includes bills "raising revenue and appropriating the same" and the House considers itself to be the only proper venue to originate any bills appropriating revenue. The Senate can arguably circumvent this requirement by substituting the text of any bill previously passed by the House with the text of a revenue bill.
When, in the opinion of the House of Representatives, a Senate-introduced bill that raises revenue or appropriates money is passed by the Senate and sent to the House for its consideration, the House places a blue slip on the legislation that notes the House's constitutional prerogative and immediately returns it to the Senate without taking further action. This blue-slipping procedure, done by an order of the House, is routinely completed to enforce its interpretation that the House is the sole body to introduce revenue or appropriations legislation. The failure of the House to consider the legislation means it cannot become a law. This tactic is historically to be of great use to the House and, as a practical matter, the Senate does not introduce tax or revenue measures to avoid a blue slip.
In the Senate, a blue slip is an opinion written by a Senator from the state where a federal judicial nominee resides. Both senators from a nominee's state are sent a blue slip in which they may submit a favorable or unfavorable opinion of a nominee. They may also choose not to return a blue slip. The Senate Judiciary Committee takes blue slips into consideration when deciding whether or not to recommend that the Senate confirm a nominee.
Professor Brandon Denning has suggested that "the executive branch take a more active role in identifying and publicizing what it perceives to be abuses of the procedure during the confirmation process.”
- CSPAN Capitol Questions
- Saturno, James V. (March 15, 2011), "The Origination Clause of the U.S. Constitution: Interpretation and Enforcement", Congressional Research Service
- Denning, Brandon. "The 'Blue Slip': Enforcing the Norms of the Judicial Confirmation Process", William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal (2001).