Power Play
August 28, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday to suspend Parliament until mid-October, leaving lawmakers little time to try to block Britain from crashing out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without a divorce settlement. Johnson asked the queen to end the current session of Parliament in preparation for a Queen's Speech, typically a formality to lay out a government's legislative agenda. BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said it would be "impossible" for the queen to refuse the request, and unlike dissolving Parliament to hold new elections, members of Parliament don't get a vote on prorogation.

Parliament was scheduled to return from summer recess next week, and opposition lawmakers have reportedly been working on a plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit, a move Johnson seems increasingly likely to pursue. Johnson said he will give the Queen's Speech on Oct. 14, and in the meantime, lawmakers won't be able to bring forward or debate new legislation. Johnson said there will be "ample time" to MPs to debate Brexit after his speech, adding: "As always my door is open to all colleagues should you wish to discuss this or any other matter."

The reaction to Johnson's move was mostly negative. Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson called it an "utterly scandalous affront to our democracy," Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson called it a "dangerous and unacceptable course of action" and "an act of cowardice from Boris Johnson," and Tory MP Dominic Grieve, a former attorney general, called it "an outrageous act" that will bring down Johnson's government. "If the prime minister persists with this and doesn't back off, then I think the chances are that his administration will collapse," Grieve added. "I will certainly vote to bring down a Conservative government that persists in a course of action which is so unconstitutional."

Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly shrugged, saying prorogation is what "all new governments do." Peter Weber

November 15, 2018

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) finally put his foot down. On Wednesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked a motion by Flake and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to force a full Senate vote on a bill protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, newly endangered by President Trump's appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Flake then announced that until the bill gets a floor vote, he will not vote for any of the 32 judicial nominations McConnell hopes to confirm before year's end or vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees awaiting a vote in the Judiciary Committee.

If Flake and the entire Democratic caucus vote no on the judicial nominations — probably McConnell's top priority — Vice President Mike Pence would have to step in to break the 50-50 tie. Flake can single-handedly block all nominees from being voted out of committee, assuming all Democrats vote with him. If Flake is joined by another Republican who supports his bipartisan bill — passed out of committee months ago — to give special counsels an avenue to contest their firing, no judges would be confirmed for the remainder of this Congress. Coons said he and Flake are confident the bill "would get 60 votes if given a vote."

McConnell and other Republicans, including some who helped write the bill, have argued the legislation is unnecessary because Trump won't fire Mueller. Flake wasn't buying that argument. “The president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it,” he said on the Senate floor. "Why? Why do we do this? To protect a man seemingly who is so incurious about what Russia did during the 2016 elections? ... Why do we do that? Do we have no more institutional pride here?”

The legislation, even if passed in the Senate, faces an uncertain future in the House, though senators could insist on including it in must-pass legislation before the end of the year. Peter Weber

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