by Kevin Daley
Outgoing GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona confirmed Sunday that he will block President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees to secure concessions on trade.
Flake, a strident Trump-critic who is not seeking re-election in November, told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that Congress has been overwhelmed by the political tumult of recent years and should reassert its authority on issues like immigration and trade.
“I think myself and a number of senators, at least a few of us, will stand up and say let’s not move any more judges until we get a vote, for example, on tariffs,” Flake said.
Elsewhere in the interview, Flake praised other institutions for effectively weathering the “crisis” of the Trump presidency.
“We ought to more jealously guard our institutional prerogative,” he said. “I think in this crisis we’re in, I think the judiciary has stood up well. The press has stood up well in terms of institutions. But the Congress has been lacking.”
Flake sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which issues recommendations on judicial nominees prior to their confirmation vote. The 21-member panel is closely divided — Republicans hold 11 seats to the Democrats’ 10, making Flake’s cooperation essential if GOP leaders hope to move candidates to the floor.
It’s not yet clear that Flake has secured guarantees from Senate leaders on any of his policy priorities or that there is much interest in weaponizing judicial confirmations inside the Republican caucus.
GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the judiciary committee, told CNN that the Senate’s confirmation calendar is overwhelmed with other nominees for positions throughout the executive branch. As such, senators could spend the summer clearing the backlog of nominees for the administration while an accord is reached with Flake.
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