Having abandoned a bid for re-election this fall, Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake is eschewing the party line and following his conscience to oppose Trump’s trade war, putting him on a collision course with the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Having declared that trade policy is supposed to include the views of Congress, Flake is supporting legislation that would restrict the president’s ability to unilaterally impose tariffs on other countries by claiming that it is for national security purposes.
The president, as expected, opposes the bill, and it is being blocked from even being considered in the Senate by McConnell.
So Flake is using the one form of leverage at his disposal. He is threatening to block approval of any more of Trump’s conservative nominees for federal judgeships unless there is a vote on the trade legislation that would tie up Trump’s hands.
Flake’s power is his position as one of 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve each candidate for judge before the full Senate can vote.
If Flake votes with the ten Democrats on the committee to block a candidate, it effectively will freeze or stop that judicial nomination.
“We need to vote on tariffs,” Flake said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I’m committed to getting a vote on tariffs. That’s all I’ll say.”
“It would also present a political headache for Senate GOP leaders,” reports The Daily Beast, “who have touted the record pace of judicial confirmations under Trump.”
Flake made it clear that he is done with rubber stamping Trump’s nominees and executive actions.
“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 Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
“I think myself and a number of senators, at least a few of us,” continued Flake, “will stand up and say – let’s not move any more judges until we get a vote, for example, on tariffs.”
Republicans in the Senate and House don’t want to confront the president and start a battle within their own party with the midterm elections coming up.
Flake, however, has taken an independent path since declaring that he will not run for re-election, which has him in Trump’s cross-hairs.
For Democrats and Independents, a break in the Republican ranks is a refreshing change that finally could challenge Trump’s authoritarian approach to push through whatever he wants without consulting Congress or anyone else outside of his inner circle.
It is promising to see there is a Republican Senator with the courage to stand up for what is right.