WASHINGTON ― In a stunning defeat for President Donald Trump, Republican Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) on Thursday refused to support appeals court nominee Ryan Bounds ― and sunk his nomination altogether ― over some of his college writings on race.
After an hour of mysterious inactivity on the Senate floor, during which time Bounds was widely expected to be confirmed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) emerged to say it wasn’t happening.
“For the information of all senators, the nomination will be withdrawn,” he said.
It takes only one Republican to deny confirmation to a judicial nominee, and multiple Senate aides said Scott was the “no” vote. Scott, who is the only African-American Republican senator, allegedly took issue with some of the things Bounds had written during his time at Stanford University.
Bounds’ college writings include him complaining about multicultural organizations that “divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns.” He wrote that “race-focused groups” should not continue on campus, claiming that the “existence of ethnic organizations is no inevitable prerequisite to maintaining a diverse community ― white students, after all, seem to be doing all right without an Aryan Student Union.”
Bounds also accused campus “race-thinkers” of denigrating African-Americans as “oreos,” “Uncle Toms” or “sell-outs” if they rejected “victimhood status.” On matters of sexual assault, Bounds wrote in college that “there is nothing really inherently wrong [with a university] failing to punish an alleged rapist ― regardless his guilt.”
His failed confirmation is a huge blow to Trump’s otherwise successful efforts to fill up federal courts with conservative judges. Bounds, 45, was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Scott was vague later about why he voted no.
“After talking with the nominee last night and meeting with him today, I had unanswered questions that led to me being unable to support him,” he said in a statement.
Democrats celebrated the defeat of someone they all opposed. They noted that neither of Bounds’ home-state senators, Oregon’s Ron Wyden (D) and Jeff Merkley (D), had approved of giving Bounds a confirmation hearing, and they were upset he had gotten this far.
“Today, the integrity of our courts and of a 101-year tradition of consulting home state Senators on judicial appointments was preserved,” Merkley said in a statement. “I am pleased that President Trump and my Republican colleagues have recognized what Senator Wyden and I have known all along — that Ryan Bounds should never have been nominated in the first place.”
Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), said if Republicans are prepared to oppose Bounds over his college writings, they should be similarly interested in seeing all of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s White House writings before deciding whether to support him.
“A lower court nominee’s college writings are relevant but a Supreme Court nominee’s White House writings aren’t?” House said. “I don’t think so.”
The story has been updated with comment from Merkley.