It’s pretty rare to see U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson publicly fume about anything. It’s even more unusual to see him openly criticize the actions of a fellow senator.
But that’s been the case on Capitol Hill this week as Isakson and his colleague David Perdue have pushed to secure the confirmation of Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant.
Grant last month sailed through her Senate confirmation hearing for a position on the powerful 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t voted to advance her nomination to the Senate floor, despite Grant’s name being on the calendar for several weeks now.
The delay, it turns out, is due to Arizona Republican Jeff Flake.
The problem is “not specifically with her,” Flake said about Grant before dashing into a lunch on Wednesday. “Just working a few things out.”
CNN later reported that Flake has threatened to place a hold on all of Trump’s appellate court nominees until he hears from the White House on travel restrictions to Cuba and tariff-related issues.
The blockade has infuriated Isakson and Perdue, who both vouched for Grant at her confirmation hearing.
“I went and confronted (Flake) and said I really needed him to let her go. She’s a terrific judge,” Isakson told Roll Call, which first reported the story. Grant is one of Isakson’s former interns, dating back to his days in the U.S. House.
Flake “has no reason for her not to go forward,” he said.
Isakson described Flake’s move as an “indiscriminate, irresponsible use of a privilege of the Senate.” Perdue said it was “a perfect example of what is wrong with Washington.”
“It is outrageous to me that another U.S. senator can hold up a circuit court judge of Britt Grant’s caliber over something totally unrelated to her qualifications,” said Perdue. “I just think that is absolutely ridiculous.”
Senators place holds on executive branch nominees all the time, but Flake’s move is unusual in this era of intense GOP loyalty to Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made stacking the federal judiciary with conservative judges a top goal this year, and few Republican lawmakers have blocked or voted against any of the president’s judicial nominees.
Flake, who is retiring this year, has been heavily critical of Trump on issues such as immigration.
The Judiciary Committee, which was slated to take up Grant’s nomination at a meeting today, deferred the vote for the third time in three weeks.
“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to vote on her nomination today and will hold her over for another week while Senator Flake works out his concerns with the administration and leader’s office on issues not related to her nomination,” said Chuck Grassley, the committee chairman.
Republicans hold a slim 11-10 majority on the panel, so if all Democrats are united against any nominee that makes any GOP dissent lethal.
Isakson spokeswoman Amanda Maddox said confirming Grant is a “top priority” for the senator.
An Atlanta native, Grant worked for then-Congressman Nathan Deal and in the George W. Bush administration before rising to become Georgia’s solicitor general and eventually a state Supreme Court justice. Trump last fall floated her name as a potential U.S. Supreme Court pick.
Grant’s credentials are not without controversy. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights circulated a letter last month urging senators to reject her nomination.
“Although she has not had controversial cases during her first year on (the Georgia Supreme Court), in her previous job as solicitor general of Georgia her work sought to diminish civil and human rights in America,” the group wrote in its letter.
The group cited Grant’s work to overturn substantial portions of the Voting Rights Act, and her defense of a 2012 “fetal pain” law passed by the Legislature, sharply curtailing the period during which women can seek abortions.
The 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, is one rung below the U.S. Supreme Court and hears cases from Georgia, Alabama and Florida. It often rules on nationally significant matters involving the death penalty, voting rights and immigration.
This story has been updated.
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