With Justice Kennedy’s retirement, the Senate prepares for the mother of all confirmation battles. Republicans have the votes necessary to confirm a well-qualified, solidly conservative nominee.
But there may be a fly in the ointment. If so, his name is Jeff Flake.
Flake has threatened to hold up President Trump’s nominees for courts of appeals. Why? Apparently because he’s unhappy about Trump’s tariffs and his Cuba policy.
These seem to be the stated reasons. Flake’s animus towards Trump and a desire for relevance as he prepares to leave Washington may also be factors, though I’d like to think not.
It’s likely that Trump will need Flake’s vote to confirm his Supreme Court nominee. More than that, Trump may need Flake’s support in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the nomination will first be debated and voted on.
Thus, Flake has considerably more leverage now than he did a few hours ago. I find it hard to believe that Flake, who to my knowledge has always been solid when it comes to confirming conservative judges (and on most other issues as well), would stand in the way of replacing Kennedy with a solid conservative — long a dream of the right and center-right. But then, I found it hard to believe that he would obstruct court of appeals nominees over trade policy or Cuba.
Republican Senators behave unbelievably at times. Stay tuned.