Rubio continues to block judicial nominee but won't say why
WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio continues to block a South Florida judicial nominee he recommended to the White House and has likely killed her chances of being confirmed.
He refuses to say why.
On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee takes up five nominees and Mary Barzee Flores is not among them. Rubio through a spokesman declined to explain why he has not submitted a so-called blue slip for Barzee Flores, whom Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson jointly recommended for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District.
"I have spoken with Rubio and he said he's not going to return the blue slip," Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times.
In December, Rubio's office said he was waiting for a Judiciary Committee review of Barzee Flores, a respected Miami lawyer. That review has finished and now the committee, led by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, is pointing to Rubio.
"Sen. Grassley is honoring blue slips, just as Sen. Leahy did as chairman, to ensure cooperation and consultation between the White House and home state senators, and absent the return of the blue slips from both home state senators, the committee will not move forward on a nominee," spokeswoman Beth Levine said.
The spot on the court has been vacant since May 2014 and is considered a judicial emergency, meaning cases are backlogged.
Barzee Flores was recommended by the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission and Rubio and Nelson forwarded her name to the White House. President Obama nominated her in February 2015. Senators are not bound to support a nominee under JNC rules, though they generally have.
Barzee Flores served on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida in Miami from 2003 to 2011 and before that had a long stint in the federal public defender's office. She graduated from Miami Law School in 1988.
She has bipartisan support back home, where Rubio's actions have drawn criticism.
"I've been honestly shocked by his lack of responsibility as a U.S. senator," Miami lawyer Tom Spencer, a Republican, told the Miami Herald in February. Spencer supported Rubio for Senate but backed Jeb Bush in the presidential race.