Washington (AFP) – Senate leaders took the rare step of withdrawing President Donald Trump’s latest circuit court judge nominee on Thursday, after an African-American Republican lawmaker expressed concern about the attorney’s race-tinged college writings.
Senator Tim Scott ultimately tanked the nomination when it became clear that Ryan Bounds, an assistant US attorney in Oregon, would not have sufficient support for confirmation as a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
“For the information of all senators, the nomination will be withdrawn,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Republican-controlled chamber minutes before the scheduled vote.
It was a surprise move that dealt a blow to the White House, as judicial nominees are rarely withdrawn at such a late stage.
Bounds wrote a 1995 article for a conservative student paper while attending Stanford University, in which he discussed the concept of “race think” and diversity promotion by “strident racial factions” of the student body.
As a nominee to the circuit court Bounds had faced opposition from his home state’s two senators, both Democrats, along with all other Democrats in the chamber.
But a GOP source familiar with the proceedings said Bounds ran into deep trouble when Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican, raised concerns about the college writings.
Scott expressed his concerns to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who said he, too, would vote no.
“With more Republicans heading to no, Bounds was withdrawn,” the source said.
Trump’s Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate. But with Senator John McCain battling brain cancer back in Arizona and unable to vote, a 50-49 majority effectively means that a single Republican defector can sink a nominee.
The Senate has nonetheless confirmed a record number of judicial nominees in the first 18 months of Trump’s presidency.
The Bounds rejection comes as the Senate also considers Trump’s US Supreme Court nominee, conservative jurist Brett Kavanaugh, to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kavanaugh worked for years in President George W. Bush’s administration, and as a federal judge has written hundreds of opinions.
Democrats want extra time to study Kavanaugh’s extensive paper trail before the Senate confirmation vote, and they warn that Republican leadership is seeking to block release of Kavanaugh’s writings from his time in government.
After Republicans sank the Bounds nomination based on his college writings, “how are they going to argue that Judge Kavanaugh’s White House papers aren’t relevant to his nomination to the Supreme Court?” said Matt House, communications director for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.