The nomination of a Portland-based prosecutor for a vacancy on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was unexpectedly upended today when U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) said he couldn't support the nominee, Assistant U.S. Attorney for Oregon Ryan Bounds.
Scott, who is African American, pointed to concerns about racially intemperate opinion pieces Bounds wrote while an undergraduate at Stanford.
Alex Bolton, a reporter at The Hill, tweeted the news:
Bounds currently works for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland. He was raised in Hermiston, Ore.
President Donald J. Trump nominated Bounds last year upon the advice of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the only Republican member of Oregon's congressional delegation.
In a floor speech prior to today's scheduled vote, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) blasted Bounds for failing to disclose his college writings, which Wyden said included numerous unacceptable viewpoints.
Wyden accused Bounds of "flagrantly misrepresenting his background."
"He lied, he covered up hateful writings," Wyden said, noting that Bounds compared organizations that promoted multiculturalism to Nazis.
The Ninth Circuit, which covers nine western states including Oregon and two Pacific islands, is generally regarded as the most liberal of the country's federal appeals courts.
Typically, federal judicial nomination are the province of a state's U.S. senators. But because both of Oregon's senators, Wyden and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are Democrats, Trump chose to ignore the candidates they selected.
In the tradition-bound Senate, nominees usually cannot move forward over the objection of home state senators but this year Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) ignored that tradition and the concerns of Wyden and Merkley.
The Senate is currently divided 51 to 49 with Republicans in control. But U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is often absent as he battles brain cancer. That means Bounds needs every remaining Republican vote to win confirmation—and when Bounds lost Scott's support, his nomination was doomed and McConnell pulled it rather than allow the vote to fail.
Wyden issued a statement after McConnell's maneuver.
"I am gratified that the Senate has come to its senses and that long-time, proven practices of bipartisanship for judicial nominations have prevailed over partisan efforts to force through a deeply flawed and compromised nominee," Wyden said. "I want [Senate Judiciary] Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein and the administration to know that I am ready and willing to work with them on finding a nominee who deserves a seat on the Ninth Circuit."