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.