The aptly named Jeff Flake
, the departing Republican Arizona senator who likes to publicly fret over Donald Trump while not actually using the power of his office to do anything, is finally showing a little backbone in the lame duck session. At least for now. The Senate GOP is trying to race through the approvals of as many lifetime-appointed federal judges as they can; Flake says he'll oppose them until a vote is called on legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller
from interference — including certain protections in the event that the president moved to fire him. Flake's gambit has left 21 Trump judicial nominations floundering in committee, and led to a failed vote on the Senate floor yesterday.
Will Flake hold firm? This is kind of a Lucy with the football situation, so we'll see. But in the mean time, Republican lawmakers are apoplectic
. While the GOP Congress has often floundered since Trump came into office, Senate leadership has been sharply focused on a massive re-shaping of the judiciary, hoping to steer policy in a right-wing direction for a generation.
Trump apparatchik and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
was left in such a froth that he was unable to dole out his standard light-hearted chuckles, calling Flake a "selfish narcissist."
Republican leadership could break the impasse by allowing a floor vote on the Mueller protection bill, which cleared the Judiciary Committee earlier this year. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
has refused. For whatever reason, that's not a debate they want to have.