Flake issues threat unless Mueller protection bill gets a vote

The Lead political panel discusses.

Posted: Nov 15, 2018 6:25 PM
Updated: Nov 15, 2018 6:58 PM

Republicans are looking for a way to solve Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake's demand for a floor vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller, but so far no other Republican has joined his threat to block judicial nominees until he gets a vote.

As a result, Flake has the ability to stop the roughly two-dozen nominees awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Republicans have an 11-10 majority, but he can't stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from confirming another 30-plus federal judicial nominees awaiting votes on the Senate floor, where the Republicans hold a two seat advantage, 51-49.

Two potential Republican allies for Flake, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said Thursday that they support the special counsel legislation, but they did not indicate they'd join Flake in using judges as leverage to force such a vote.

"I believe strongly the bill should be brought to the floor in light of the President's firing of Jeff Sessions, his installation of Matt Whitaker, and also his tweet this morning, all of which are disturbing to me," Collins said. "I'm not sure I see a link between holding up judges and getting a vote on this bill. There may be other ways. I've talked to others of my colleagues who are also concerned, and I hope we can prevail on the majority leader to just bring the bill to the floor."

Murkowski said she was willing to talk to Flake about his effort, but hasn't done so yet.

"I want to find out what the path forward is for this right now," Murkowski said. "I have said I'm supportive of that (legislation). How we do that is the question I think needs to be answered right now. I'll talk to Sen. Flake about what he's doing. But we haven't had much of a conversation yet."

Flake is making a renewed push for the legislation to protect the special counsel, which would allow his firing to be challenged in court, in the wake of Trump's decision to replace Sessions with Whitaker as acting attorney general, who has been criticized for his prior comments attacking the Mueller investigation and because he was never confirmed by the Senate for any role.

Flake's threat is on hold for the next week while the Senate is in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday, but he'll likely have his first chance to vote against more than a dozen judicial nominees in the Judiciary Committee the following week.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, acknowledged that the nominees will probably be stuck unless the matter with Flake was resolved. Grassley said he disagreed with Flake's methods, though he noted he supported the underlying bill, which passed his committee in April.

"I would hope though that we'd see it as two separate things. One, there's a legitimacy to move judges and it's something we ought to do to make the judicial branch productive," Grassley told reporters Thursday. "So, I would disagree with him on how he's doing it, but I wouldn't disagree with his objective."

Senate Republicans have started discussing a potential compromise with Flake in order to avert the judicial impasse, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.

Cornyn said the matter was discussed at the Republican Senate policy lunch on Thursday, and one option under consideration was a "sense of the Senate" floor vote on a non-binding but symbolic measure.

"Somebody mentioned a possible sense of the Senate resolution, since there were objections raised on the constitutionality of such a bill and objections raised on the probability that the House would ever pass it or the President would ever sign it," Cornyn said, referencing two Republican objections to the bill.

Other Republicans say they don't need see the need for the bill, because they don't believe the President will try to fire Mueller.

"If you did do that bill, all you're doing is getting into a big hassle," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican.

McConnell is likely to want to push through a number of judicial nominees when the Senate returns for the end of the lame-duck session, and Flake's opposition could mean that Vice President Mike Pence would be needed at the Capitol to break 50-50 ties on the votes.

Of course, McConnell could also just wait out Flake until January, when Flake will depart the Senate and Republicans will expand their vote cushion in the Senate.

While his job is debated, Whitaker has started making the rounds on Capitol Hill. He met Thursday with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who could become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year.

Asked what Whitaker told him about the Mueller investigation, Graham said: "He's just going to follow regular order. He has no concerns right now."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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