Sen. Jeff Flake’s vow to block judicial nominees is significantly disrupting the Senate Judiciary Committee’s plans to advance more of President Donald Trump’s picks for the lower courts.
The committee’s chairman, Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, scrapped a Thursday meeting, according to an announcement from the committee. A Grassley aide cited the reason as Flake not backing off his threat to vote against all pending nominees until he gets a floor vote on a bill to protect special counsels like Robert Mueller from political interference. This is the second meeting in consecutive weeks the committee has scrapped, delaying 22 nominees from floor consideration by the end of the year.
That’s because with Arizona Republican opposed to the nominees, they are unlikely to win a favorable vote in committee given that the GOP has a one-seat advantage on the panel. If they are not confirmed by year’s end, the White House will have to renominate them next year.
On Wednesday, Flake stood by his commitment to not vote for judicial nominees until the Mueller bill gets a vote.
“We can have the markup, I will just vote no,” Flake told CNN.
Flake made his promise to block Trump judicial nominees last month following Trump’s decision to fire then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, an outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation.
Installing conservative judges throughout the nation’s judiciary branch has been a marquee promise of both Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has consistently worked to approve conservative nominees through his chamber.
Given the GOP’s narrow 51-49 Senate majority, Flake has also played a part in sinking Trump’s nominees on the Senate floor – most notably Thomas Farr, a nominee to be a US district judge in North Carolina who was accused of disenfranchising African-American voters. South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott joined Flake in opposing Farr’s nomination last month, effectively ending that nomination.
This story has been updated to reflect additional developments.
CNN’s Lauren Fox contributed to this report.