Senate Republicans understand Jeff Flake’s strategy on judicial confirmations, even if they’re not comfortable with it

Reaction from Senate Republicans on Senator Jeff Flake’s plan to hold up judicial nominations until Congress acts on tariff and trade issues has been respectful but wary, according to this piece in The Weekly Standard:

Although some of Flake’s colleagues have similar convictions concerning Trump’s use of tariffs, they say they won’t go so far as to block Trump’s appointees.

“I am not holding up judicial nominees for that purpose,” Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey told reporters on Monday night.

Toomey is a co-sponsor of a measure originally introduced by Bob Corker that would subject tariffs imposed under national security claims through Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act to congressional approval. Trump has angered close trading partners (and Republicans on Capitol Hill, for that matter) by using that authority to impose tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent on foreign steel and aluminum. The White House intends to use it again to impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported automobiles.

Toomey and Flake agree that Trump’s license to implement such duties without congressional approval should be revoked. And Toomey said on Monday night that getting a vote on the trade bill is “very important to me” — but so is confirming Trump’s judicial nominees. And Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson, another co-sponsor of the Corker bill, said that he would love to see Congress reclaim its Article I constitutional authority over tariffs, but that he wasn’t insisting it happen “at exactly this moment in time.”

“I’d prefer he not do it,” Johnson said of Flake’s strategy of targeting Trump’s judicial nominees. “We need to confirm judges.”

Corker himself appeared wary of the notion. “We’re trying to pass the amendment in a normal way,” Corker shouted through the glass of a Senate subway car as the train propelled him away from a gaggle of reporters on Monday night.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said on Monday night that he hadn’t spoken to Flake about the issue. “I’m interested in moving these judges, but I also have respect for what [Flake] wants to do,” Grassley told reporters. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said he would prefer to advance trade legislation through the Finance Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over the issue. Still, Cornyn didn’t appear completely opposed to the concept of curtailing Trump’s ability to unilaterally impose the Section 232 tariffs.

Federal judicial nominations are caught up in a political fight (again)

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the most prominent Republican critics of President Trump, has stated that he “and a few other senators” plan not to vote on any more federal judicial nominations until Congress acts on other issues:

“I do think that unless we can actually do something other than just approving the president’s executive calendar, his nominees, judges, that we have no reason to be there,” Flake said. “So, I think myself and a number of senators, at least a few of us will stand up and say let’s not move any more judges until we get a vote for example on tariffs.”

***

“The Senate ought to bring legislation to the floor that says hey, we’re going to push back here,” Flake said. “The European Union exporting cars to the U.S. does not represent a national security threat.”

Senator Flake is right about the need for Congress to step up and do its job in a rigorous and thoughtful manner. But it’s a damning indictment of that body that it cannot simultaneously govern the country and approve judicial nominees. Meanwhile, the federal court system continues to operate with many fewer judges than it believes necessary to do its work properly.

A more detailed (and glowing) look at Rosen’s biography of Taft

I have praised Jeffrey Rosen’s new biography of William Howard Taft on this blog before.  It is a lucidly framed and highly readable look into the life of the only man ever to serve as both President and Chief Justice.

My longer review of Rosen’s book has now been published on JOTWELL. Enjoy!

Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearing on federal court workplace harassment

Last week, Senator Charles Grassley promised to hold a hearing on the federal courts’ response to workplace harassment, which culminated in a working group report. The Washington Post reports on that hearing here.

From the story:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said in her opening statement that she was troubled by some aspects of the report.

“I’m also concerned that the working group’s report didn’t quantify the prevalence of sexual harassment in the judiciary and instead relied on previous EEOC data,” said Feinstein, using an acronym for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Grassley said in an interview that the report seemed like a way to “create the appearance of caring” while leaving “employees of the judicial branch without a vehicle for reporting abuses.”

The Iowa Republican said he would like to see an independent watchdog for the judiciary that could take and investigate reports of harassment. While Congress could theoretically get involved with legislation, he said, that might be difficult to accomplish in practice.

Grassley seeks hearing on federal courts’ approach to handling sexual harrassment

This week, the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group released its report and recommendations, which covered a range of workplace conduct including sexual harassment.

Senator Chuck Grassley is not impressed with the final report, stating that “The report lacked very serious proposals and, in a sense, just kind of kicked the can down the road.” He wants Congressional hearings on the matter.

Stay tuned.

Federal courts announce recommendations for workplace changes

The Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, formed in the aftermath of the Alex Kozinski scandal, has issued its report and recommendations.

From the press release:

The recommendations include clarifying workplace standards and communications about how employees can raise formal complaints, removing barriers to reporting complaints, providing additional and less formal avenues for employees to seek expert advice and assistance on workplace conduct issues, and utilizing enhanced training on these subjects for judges and employees.

Several recommendations of the Working Group have already been implemented or are underway, such as clarifying that confidentiality rules in the Judiciary do not prevent law clerks or employees from reporting misconduct by judges. Many of the report’s recommendations require further action by the Judicial Conference.

The entire report can be found here.

D.C. Circuit to begin live streaming oral arguments in September

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will begin live audio streaming of its oral arguments when its new term commences in September. Chief Judge Merrick Garland made the announcement. D.C. joins several other circuit courts that have recently embraced streaming technology in the interest of improved transparency.

I wonder if anyone at One First Street is paying attention.