Two Republicans sank President Trump’s nomination of Ryan Bounds (45) to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Bounds suddenly withdrew his nomination on Thursday when GOP opposition was kindled just before an expected vote in the Senate. Bounds would have been Trump’s twenty-fourth judicial nominee. All fifty Republicans voted on Bounds’ nomination on Wednesday, but when Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) vowed to oppose, the final vote was pulled on Thursday.
If Senate Republicans decided to go ahead with the aborted vote, the nomination would have failed anyway Scott, the only African-American in the GOP caucus, told party leaders that he would not vote for Bounds’ nomination. Because the GOP holds a bare majority of 51-49 in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needed every vote available since Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) remains absent as he undergoes treatment for brain cancer. No Democrats were expected to support the nomination.
Sen. Scott would not voice his reasons for opposing Bounds. However, he told reporters that he needed time to review the material about Bounds because the information he had was “insufficient.” Reportedly, Scott conferred with Rubio. The latter said that he would also oppose the nomination because of qualms about the nominee’s college writings. "Sen. Scott needed more time to talk to people who knew him and that’s not available. Sen. Scott said he couldn’t vote for him today if the vote was now. I support him in that decision," Rubio told reporters. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said the objections to Bounds’ nomination were raised “that couldn't be resolved in the short time we had."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that he understood Scott had objected to Bounds because of supposedly racially insensitive comments made in the past. Grassley said that fellow Republicans on his committee had raised the issue with Bounds, who had satisfied their concerns. "He didn't know that was thoroughly discussed with the nominee in our committee," Grassley said of Scott's objections. Scott is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for vetting judiciary nominations.
Scott has not said whether Bounds’ college writings provided the reasons for opposing him. The senator spoke to Bounds on Thursday and also told colleagues at a luncheon that he needed more time.
Bounds' nomination to the bench was opposed by Democrats and allies from the get-go because of his writings of several decades ago that expressed skepticism about identity politics and questioned the need for diversity training. Bounds questioned the strategies used by "more strident racial factions of the student body."
"I am mystified because these tactics seem always to contribute more to restricting consciousness, aggravating intolerance and pigeonholing cultural identities than many a Nazi bookburning," he wrote. Bounds compared diversity training to a "pestilence" in another writing.
Bounds apologized during his confirmation hearing in May, explaining that he used "overheated" language. "I share the concerns of many that the rhetoric I used in debating campus politics back in the early '90s on Stanford’s campus was often overheated, overbroad.”
While studying towards his bachelor’s degree at Stanford, Bounds wrote that he opposed campus organizations that “divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns” and called for the groups to be dismantled, according to a report by Alliance for Justice.
The denial of the Bounds’ nomination breaks the pace of approvals Republicans have set since Trump’s inauguration. The GOP broke a record that was set during the George H.W. Bush administration for the number of appellate judges confirmed during an administration’s first two years, giving Trump his 23rd appeals judge on Wednesday.
Neither Rubio nor Scott had raised concerns earlier about Bounds. Both voted to proceed to a final vote on the nomination on Wednesday. Once Rubio and Scott voiced their issues with Bounds’ writings, other Republicans followed suit with the result that the vote on the nomination was pulled.
While some in the media have characterized Bounds’ college writings as “racist” or “racially charged,” some observers see the comments as mainstream and absent of hostility on the basis of race. Bounds opposed the existence of race-based organizations on campus, criticizing them for calling conservatives within the minority groups “oreos” or “twinkies.” Bounds has been called a bigot for using those terms in order to denounce them.
In addition, Bounds had been given the highest ranking by a judicial selection committee formed by Oregon’s two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, when Bounds had been nominated to an Oregon bench. There have been accusations that Bounds concealed writings from his undergraduate days when asked to disclose them to the selection committee. However, Bounds had complied with a request from one of Wyden’s staffers for writings “going as far back as law school.” Bounds also provided the college publications to the Senate.
The editors of National Review -- flagship journal of conservatives -- criticized Rubio and Scott for opposing Bounds. National Review editors wrote: “Scott and Rubio have been unfair to an accomplished conservative jurist and set back the cause of a federal judiciary committed to the rule of law — a cause that is especially urgent on the circuit to which Bounds had been nominated. We generally admire, and have published, both senators. But they are guilty of a serious lapse of judgment.”
That the collapse of Trump's nomination of Bounds may have an effect on the upcoming confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was not lost on Democrats. Democrats may require all papers that Kavanaug has written as an adult. In addition, because Kavanaugh worked at George W. Bush White House on paper flow, those papers may also be required. Democrats could then require months to consider all of the documents even after a new Senate is in place in 2019. While Republicans could then complain that there is no need to review Kavanaugh's old writings, there are now two Republicans who are on record that even the college writings of a nominee are fair game for consideration. The opportunity was not lost on Democrats.
"Republicans just sunk the Bounds nomination based on his college writings. After that, how are they going to argue that Judge Kavanaugh's White House papers aren't relevant to his nomination to the Supreme Court?" wrote Matt House on Thursday. "A lower court nominee's college writings are relevant but a Supreme Court nominee's White House writings aren't? I don't think so." House is the spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Minority Leader of the Senate.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.