Trump's judicial nominees now under threat from... who?

President Trump has now energized voters in both parties to levels not seen in decades as the midterm elections approach. On the GOP side, voter enthusiasm even exceeds the levels reported before the red wave of 2010, and one of the main reasons Republican voters cite is the progress being made on judicial appointments. When it was announced that Congress would need to hang around for most of the August recess and continue working, processing nominations was a key factor in that decision.

But now somebody might be putting the brakes on the nominee confirmation process and it’s not even a Democrat. The Hill reports that retiring Senator Jeff Flake is looking at putting a hold on nominees until he gets what he wants.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is reportedly considering using votes on President Trump’s appellate court nominees as a bargaining chip for demands on two separate issues.

CNN reported that Flake may block votes on the court nominations while he attempts to secure action on tariffs and travel restrictions to Cuba.

“We’re discussing it,” he told the network.

Flake is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Republicans hold a one-seat advantage over Democrats.

The tariffs question isn’t all that surprising and Flake is hardly the only Republican who has been critical of the entire trade war situation. But travel restrictions to Cuba? It seems to me that only a week or so ago, Jeff Flake was lambasting the President over his “admiration for despots” because he met with Kim Jong-un. But apparently, he had no problem with Obama cozying up to the Castro family in Cuba and would like to see Trump doing the same. Bit of an inconsistency there, don’t you think?

Flake is essentially a lame duck at this point, but his position on the Judiciary Committee is a crucial one. If he has an ax to grind with Donald Trump (or visions of running against him in 2020) and is looking to make some headlines, standing athwart the judicial nomination and review process is not the place for it. Neither of these issues is related to filling vacancies on the bench, so this is little more than a threat of blackmail.

This sort of move is also doing less damage to Trump or even the GOP than the conservative movement in general. Keep in mind that we haven’t exactly been running up a huge string of legislative victories since the tax cuts went through. Most of the action going on has been via the President’s executive orders. But the one area where he’s won praise from the conservative faithful across the board is the progress made on stocking the benches with conservative judges. If Jeff Flake wants to endanger this progress, he’s truly laying his cards on the table and demonstrating that his real goals don’t involve principles nearly as much as the future of Jeff Flake.

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