Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) confirmed Tuesday that he plans to block President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees until Senate Republican leaders allow a vote on legislation aimed at restricting the president’s authority to impose tariffs.
“We need to vote on tariffs,” Flake told The Daily Beast. “I’m committed to getting a vote on tariffs. That’s all I’ll say.”
Flake sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the president’s judicial nominees. But Republicans only have an 11 to 10 majority on that panel, meaning that if Flake votes with Democrats to block nominations, the Senate’s calendar would essentially grind to a halt. It would also present a political headache for Senate GOP leaders, who have touted the record pace of judicial confirmations under Trump.
“I do think that unless we can actually exercise something other than just approving the president's executive calendar, his nominees, judges, that we have no reason to be there,” Flake said Sunday on ABC’s This Week, previewing his ultimate decision to vote with Democrats in preventing judicial nominees from receiving a vote on the Senate floor.
The Arizona senator, like many of his GOP colleagues, has long opposed the president’s trade policies, including his recent decisions to impose tariffs on U.S. allies.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) drafted a bipartisan bill that would restrict Trump’s ability to impose some tariffs. It would require congressional approval for any tariffs designated under the president’s national security authority. But Republican leaders on both sides of the Capitol have balked at the legislation in part because they say they are wary of picking a fight with Trump ahead of the midterm elections.
Republican senators emerging from their weekly policy lunch on Tuesday indicated that lawmakers were discussing whether to attach Corker’s bill as an amendment to the farm bill, which the Senate is voting on this week.
“We’re trying to work things out on a tariff vote, whether it’s on the farm bill or something else,” Flake said. “There are some people who feel strongly not to have it on the farm bill, think[ing] it might endanger the farm bill.”
Flake declined to say on Tuesday whether he has discussed his decision directly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell and his deputy, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), have thus far been successful at preventing Corker’s bill from receiving a vote, enraging both Corker and Flake.