Flake issues threat unless Mueller protection bill gets a vote

The Lead political panel discusses.

Posted: Nov 15, 2018 7:44 PM
Updated: Nov 15, 2018 7:58 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."

West Lafayette
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 52°
Kokomo
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 44°
Rensselaer
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Fowler
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 41°
Williamsport
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 45°
Crawfordsville
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 43°
Frankfort
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 43°
Delphi
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 44°
Monticello
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 44°
Logansport
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 44°
Bright and Breezy with Unseasonably Cooler Conditions.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 108646

Reported Deaths: 3478
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20341757
Lake10013312
Elkhart6198106
St. Joseph586796
Allen5785198
Hamilton4600109
Vanderburgh318126
Hendricks2607120
Monroe224336
Johnson2241122
Tippecanoe211313
Clark205056
Porter197843
Cass19209
Delaware180159
Vigo169621
Madison153075
LaPorte134837
Floyd127961
Howard125163
Kosciusko116717
Bartholomew113257
Warrick104134
Marshall97423
Boone93846
Dubois92118
Hancock89242
Noble86432
Grant85132
Henry73424
Jackson7259
Wayne72214
Morgan68038
Shelby65529
LaGrange62811
Daviess61627
Dearborn61428
Clinton59111
Harrison54824
Putnam5098
Lawrence49928
Montgomery49421
White47114
Knox4659
Decatur44739
Gibson4344
DeKalb42511
Miami4202
Greene40935
Fayette40413
Jasper3732
Scott34410
Steuben3447
Sullivan32612
Jennings30512
Franklin29225
Posey2900
Clay2855
Orange27924
Ripley2768
Carroll26713
Wabash2547
Washington2491
Whitley2456
Wells2422
Starke2387
Jefferson2363
Adams2303
Fulton2292
Tipton21522
Huntington2073
Randolph2047
Perry20014
Spencer1984
Jay1640
Newton16411
Owen1621
Martin1560
Rush1484
Pike1331
Vermillion1210
Fountain1152
Pulaski1121
Blackford1072
Crawford980
Brown933
Parke902
Benton880
Union760
Ohio757
Switzerland660
Warren381
Unassigned0225

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events