by Kevin Daley
Outgoing GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is blocking votes on all of President Donald Trump’s appeals court nominees to secure concessions from Republican leaders on tariffs and Cuban travel restrictions.
Flake, a Trump antagonist who is not seeking reelection amid floundering popularity with Arizona Republicans, has not openly addressed the matter, though his seat on a closely divided Senate Judiciary Committee gives him significant leverage over judgeships.
Roll Call first reported that Flake halted a committee vote on Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant’s nomination to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court based in Atlanta. CNN confirmed late Wednesday that the senator will block all appeals court nominees to prompt discussions on relations with Cuba and the president’s escalating trade war with much of the industrial world.
Flake is one of 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which issues recommendations on judicial nominees before a final confirmation vote. The GOP has a one-vote majority on the panel, making Flake’s cooperation essential if Republicans wish to process candidates.
As of this writing, there are 10 appeals court nominees pending before the committee, including a candidate for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a regular target of conservative scorn and has jurisdiction over Flake’s home state.
The senator has not spoken publicly about his tactics, nor has he been clear as to the specific policy accomplishments he hopes to extract in exchange for continued cooperation on judges.
Judicial nominations are a priority for the embattled Republican Senate caucus, which risks losing its tenuous majority in the November elections. A steady clip of confirmations also provides Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meaningful victories as legislating slows ahead of the midterm campaign season.
McConnell cancelled the Senate’s August recess on June 5, in part to make progress on a backlog of judicial nominees.
The Senate has confirmed 21 appeals judges since Trump took office.
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