Flake drops opposition to Trump's judges after tariff vote

GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Republican reactions to Cheney's removal Flake: No greater offense than honesty in today's Republican Party Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP MORE (Ariz.) is dropping his automatic opposition to President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE's circuit court nominees after the Senate took a symbolic shot at the president's tariff authority. 

Flake, a frequent Trump critic who is retiring after this Congress, had been automatically voting 'no' on nominees for the appeals court — effectively stalling any controversial picks — in an effort to leverage the chamber's narrow margin and force GOP leadership to hold a tariff vote. 

Flake confirmed Wednesday that he would stop opposing the judges after the Senate voted on a symbolic measure on Trump’s protectionist trade policies.


"That was always the deal. Get a vote and it's dropped," he told The Hill. 

The Senate voted 88-11 to instruct lawmakers hashing out a deal on a government funding bill to include language “providing a role for Congress” on tariffs implemented for national security reasons under what is known as Section 232 of the trade laws.

The vote is nonbinding, meaning lawmakers don’t actually have to add trade language into the funding bill. But the vote margin, with more senators supporting it than would be needed to override a veto, underscores the depth of concern on Capitol Hill.

Republicans and business groups are growing increasingly worried about the effects Trump's steep tariffs — including on major allies — may have on the global economies.

With Flake dropping his opposition, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be able to approve two circuit court nominations on Thursday after they’ve been delayed for weeks: Britt Grant to serve on the 11th Circuit and David Porter to serve on the 3rd Circuit.

Republicans have been confirming Trump's appeals judges at a record pace. They've increasingly pointed to their ability to approve Trump's nominees as the key reason they should keep control of the Senate heading into the midterm election. 

And unlike signature legislation — which GOP senators note Democrats could be quick to overturn once they are back in power — confirming Trump’s judicial picks could shape the direction of the U.S. court system for decades.

They set a record last year for the number of circuit judges confirmed during a president's first year. 

Lawmakers confirmed Trump's 22nd appeals judge on Tuesday, tying the record held by former President George H.W. Bush for the number of appeals judges confirmed during a president's first two years.