Jeff Flake Threatened to Block Trump's Judicial Nominees — Then a Supreme Court Seat Opened Up

| JUN 28, 2018 | 3:46 PM

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Just days after threatening to block President Donald Trump's judicial nominees until granted a vote on tariffs, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is singing a different tune.

“My goal here is not to block judges. My goal is to get a vote on tariffs, and I have all the leverage I need with circuit court nominees,” Flake told the Arizona Republic on Wednesday.

“[The Supreme Court] is unaffected. I have all the leverage I need,” he explained. “I certainly wasn't anticipating a Supreme Court vacancy, but it's unaffected.”

Flake initially suggested that he could be open to blocking Trump's judicial nominees as leverage for a tariff vote during a Sunday appearance on ABC's “This Week.”

“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 at the time.

“So I think myself and a number of senators, at least a few of us, will stand up and say let's not move any more judges until we get a vote, for example, on tariffs,” he added.

When asked about those comments by The Daily Beast on Tuesday, Flake reiterated his commitment to getting a vote on tariffs.

“We need to vote on tariffs,” he said. “I'm committed to getting a vote on tariffs. That's all I'll say.”

But soon after Flake appeared ready to flex his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the leverage of a razor-thin Republican majority, the stakes changed drastically.

With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Flake is now making clear that his original threat to block judicial nominees as leverage on tariffs applies only to circuit court nominees.

“I just think it's unconscionable for Congress not to speak on this, so a couple of weeks ago I let the chairman on the Judiciary Committee know that I would vote 'No' on circuit court nominees until I was assured of some kind of vote coming up,” Flake told the Arizona Republic.

“At the same time, I've voted 'Yes' on district court nominees, and those have passed through,” he said. “This was only with circuit court nominees.”