Senate

Senate panel cancels votes on Trump court picks amid Flake standoff

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced Wednesday that he is canceling votes on nearly two dozen of President Trump’s judicial nominees that were expected to come up in the Judiciary Committee this week.

The cancellation of the committee’s Thursday business meeting comes as Senate Republicans are in a standoff with outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has vowed to oppose all court picks until he gets a vote on legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller. 

The notification from the Judiciary Committee didn’t specify when, or if, the committee votes on the nominations would be rescheduled. Six circuit court nominees had been expected to get a vote, as well as 15 district court nominees. 

{mosads}But Grassley warned late Wednesday afternoon that he would likely cancel the meeting unless he could get a deal with Flake that would allow the nominations to move forward.

“We haven’t canceled the meeting yet,” Grassley said roughly an hour before the announcement. “If we don’t get a positive out of it, we’ll probably cancel the meeting.”

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, allowing them to move Trump’s nominees despite Flake as long as the remaining 50 Republican senators remain united.

But on the Judiciary Committee Republicans are limited to a 11-10 majority, meaning they need Flake’s support unless they can get help from Democrats.

“We can vote on all the people who cleared the committee,” said Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Republican senator and a member of the Judiciary Committee. “But in terms of getting a vote out of committee, we need his help.”

Flake reiterated earlier Wednesday that he remains committed to opposing nominees until he gets a vote on the Mueller protection bill. He tried to get consent to schedule a vote on the bill Wednesday but was blocked by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who warned that the legislation was unconstitutional. 

The resolution, which cleared the Judiciary Committee earlier this year, would protect Mueller, or any other special counsel, in the event he is fired, but the bill has stalled amid opposition from GOP leadership.

The bill would codify Justice Department regulations that say only a senior department official could fire Mueller or another special counsel.

It would give a special counsel an “expedited review” of their firing. If a court determines that it wasn’t for “good cause,” the special counsel would be reinstated.

Tags Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Donald Trump Jeff Flake John Cornyn Mike Lee Robert Mueller Senate Judiciary Committee
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