Don’t count on Jeff Flake to save the republic

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

By James Melton, Yonside

Retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is taking another one of his grand,courageous stands against the outrages of President Donald Trump. I almost want to believe him this time.

That’s important because it means the other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee would need at least one Democratic vote to advance Trump’s nominees—something that seems exceedingly unlikely. On the Senate floor, the GOP could not confirm judges without either finding a Democratic to vote with them (good luck with that) or using Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote.

Wednesday, Flake, said he wants to see a bill protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation put up for a vote. If Flake doesn’t get what he wants, he says he will not vote to advance any of the 21 federal judicial nominees pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee or to confirm the 32 judges awaiting confirmation on the Senate floor.

That would be some gangster-level hardball—if Flake were to follow through. But we’re talking about Jeff Flake here.

As Vox’s Li Zhou points out:

Flake has, after all, used this kind of threat in the past, only to ultimately soften his opposition. Most recently, he expressed concerns about sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and even said he wouldn’t vote on the nominee until an FBI investigation was conducted — only to wind up very anticlimactically supporting his confirmation after a rushed investigation. He’s also levied the threat of voting against Trump’s appellate court nominees if action wasn’t taken related to tariffs, opposition he dropped after the Senate voted on a purely symbolic measure related to trade.

Maybe this time, with seemingly nothing to lose, Flake will find his backbone and make good on his threat. That would be the patriotic, statesman-like thing to do.

But Flake’s career in Republican politics might not be ending. He’s widely considered to be a potential challenger to Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination, and/or a candidate in 2024. If he has presidential ambitions, Flake will need friends in the party and respect from the Republican base. Given that, I am skeptical about Flake’s willingness to stand in the way of putting 54 right-wing judges on the federal bench.

Sen. Flake, I wish I could trust you. And I hope you prove me wrong. Your record, however, tells me I should not bet on it.

Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

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