In a stunning move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has withdrawn one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees just minutes before he was set for a confirmation vote.
McConnell announced Thursday on the Senate floor that he was pulling the nomination of Ryan Bounds.
Trump had nominated the assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon to be a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The withdrawal of the nomination is a blow to the White House. Judicial nominations are rarely pulled back at such a late stage in the process unless a nominee does not have the support to pass.
Bounds, 45, 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.
He claimed black students were viewed as ‘Uncle Toms’, ‘Oreos’ and ‘coconuts’ if they did not embrace ‘victimhood’, and also said rape suspects should not be expelled from a university unless they were guilty beyond all reasonable doubt, because the expulsion would not help their victims’ recovery.
He also wrote: ‘White students, after all, seem to be doing all right without an Aryan Student Union.’
Voting down: Tim Scott, the South Carolina Republican, said he could not vote for Trump nominee Ryan Bounds, effectively condemning him and prompting Mitch McConnell to pull the vote
Racial charge: Ryan 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.
Republicans have been able to use their thin majority to push several of the president’s nominees through despite overwhelming Democratic opposition. Sen. John McCain’s absence due to his battle with brain cancer has given the GOP even less cushion, with Republicans holding a 50-49 voting edge.
That cushion evaporated when Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said he needed more information about Bounds.
‘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,’ Scott said.
A GOP source familiar with the proceedings said 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‘With more Republicans heading to no, Bounds was withdrawn,’ the source said.
Unusual blow: Mitch McConnell’s last-minute move to ditch Ryan Bounds, who had bene nominated by Trump is a rare move.
The two senators from Bounds’ home state, Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, had both objected to his nomination, saying they were not consulted by the Trump administration before the choice.
They highlighted writings from Bounds’ years at Stanford University that they said revealed alarming views on race, the rights of workers and the gay community.
The Senate gives lawmakers a chance to weigh in on a judicial nominee from their home state by submitting a blue-colored form called the ‘blue slip.’
A positive blue slip signals the Senate can move forward with the nomination process.
The blue slip courtesy is designed to generate consultation between the executive branch and Congress. The two Oregon senators signaled their objections by returning a negative blue slip, which in the past has generally stalled a nomination.
This time, Republicans opted to move forward anyway, which meant that if Bounds had been confirmed, it would have been the first time since at least 1956 that a nominee had been confirmed with both home state senators returning negative blue slips.
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.
WHAT TRUMP’S JUDICIAL NOMINEE WROTE ON RACE
The charge sheet against Ryan Bounds was first produced by the Alliance For Justice, a Democrat-aligned advocacy group, which persuaded Democratic senators to vote against him.
That prompted Tim Scott to meet him on Wednesday night and announce Thursday he would not support him.
Bounds has said that the writings are 25-year-old editorials and that he has since grown up, calling them ‘poorly-worded’, ‘ill-conceived’ and ‘regreetable’.
Here are some of the charges leveled by AFJ:
- Bounds complained about multicultural organizations at the university who ‘divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns.’
- Bounds 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 claimed that there were communities on campus who believed that the ‘opponent is the white male and his coterie of meanspirited lackeys: ‘oreos,’ ‘twinkies,’ ‘coconuts,’ and the like.’
- Similarly, Bounds accused campus ‘race-thinkers’ of denigrating African-Americans as ‘oreos,’ ‘Uncle Toms’ or ‘sell-outs’ if they rejected ‘victimhood status.’
- Bounds wrote about sexual assault on campus and argued that to identify and punish alleged perpetrators, the university should maintain the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard of proof used by law enforcement. He wrote: ‘Expelling students is probably not going to contribute a great deal toward a rape victim’s recovery; there is no moral imperative to risk egregious error in doing so.’
- Bounds decried ‘sensitivity’ towards racial minorities and the LGBTQ community, and activism by those communities as a ‘pestilence’ that ‘stalks us’ and ‘threatens to corrupt our scholastic experience.’