WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republican leaders on Thursday pulled the plug on one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees after lawmakers raised concerns about racially insensitive articles he wrote as a college student, marking the first time a Trump U.S. appeals court pick was not confirmed.
The Republican-led Senate had been poised to vote on whether to confirm Ryan Bounds, a federal prosecutor, to sit on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the nomination would be withdrawn.
A White House official said that Bounds has pulled his name from consideration by the Senate, where Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a razor-thin 51-49 majority. The failure of the Bounds nomination could bolster Democratic hopes of blocking Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
The only black Republican U.S. senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, was pivotal in the Bounds nomination’s downfall.
“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 in a statement.
At his confirmation hearing in May, Democratic senators pressed Bounds on newspaper columns he wrote as a student at Stanford University in the 1990s that they said showed an insensitively toward racial minorities and victims of sexual harassment.
In one article, Bounds was critical of groups on campus that promoted diversity.
“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,” Bounds wrote.
Bounds apologized during the hearing for the “overheated” tone of some of the articles but defended their substance, saying he opposed characterizing people by race.
No other Trump appeals court nominations have failed, although several nominees to federal district courts have previously been withdrawn.
Bounds was opposed by both of his home-state senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who said the White House did not sufficiently consult them about the nomination and that Bounds had not been forthcoming about his student writings. Wyden and Merkley lobbied Republican senators to oppose the nomination.
“I’m pleased our Republican colleagues had a conversation” and “encouraged the White House to withdraw this nominee,” Merkley told reporters.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham