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Senate Committee Cancels Votes On Judges Amid Dispute With Flake

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has canceled votes on more than twenty of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees amid an ongoing dispute between Republican leaders and retiring GOP Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

The cancellation of the Thursday hearing comes as Flake has vowed to vote against advancing Trump's judicial nominees until a bipartisan bill designed to protect special counsel Robert Mueller gets a vote on the Senate floor.

On Wednesday, Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, objected to a unanimous consent request to vote on the special counsel protection bill from Flake and Democratic Senators Chris Coons, D-Del., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

With Flake holding to his pledge, Republicans do not have the votes to advance judicial nominees out of the committee, which is split 11 to 10.

Flake held true to his word in an earlier vote on the Senate floor regarding the controversial nomination of Thomas Farr to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Despite Flake's vote, Farr's nomination narrowly cleared a procedural hurdle on Wednesday, with Vice President Mike Pence voting to break the 50-50 tie.

Confirmation of Farr in a final vote remains in doubt, however, as critics continue to attack the lawyer's record on voting rights.

Flake and other supporters of the special counsel protection bill have cited Trump's frequent attacks on Mueller and the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which the president has repeatedly derided as a "witch hunt."

Trump's appointment of Mueller critic Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General has increased the necessity for protecting the special counsel, supporters have argued.

However, Lee claimed the bill is unconstitutional and would fundamentally undermine the principle of separation of powers by creating a "de facto fourth branch of government."

Republican leaders have also argued the legislation is unnecessary, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., calling the bill a "solution in search of a problem."

"We have a lot of things to do, to try to finish up this year without taking votes on things that are completely irrelevant to outcomes," McConnell said on Tuesday.

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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