The Senate voted Wednesday by an extremely narrow margin to advance controversial judicial nominee Thomas Farr to be a district court judge in North Carolina, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie – but his nomination could still be in jeopardy.
All 49 Senate Democrats voted against Farr’s nomination, saying he supported measures that they say disenfranchise African-American voters. Democrats cite his role providing legal counsel to the North Carolina Republican Party on the state’s congressional map, which was struck down this year as a partisan gerrymander.
Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican and the Senate’s sole black GOP member, voted to advance Farr, and told reporters Wednesday he hasn’t made his final decision on the nomination.
When asked why he voted to advance the vote, he told CNN, “This was based the information I’ve been provided.”
He later told reporters he wanted to speak to the author of a 1991 memo obtained by the Washington Post, which outlines a controversial postcard campaign distributed by the 1990 campaign of Sen. Jesse Helms, that the Justice Department said were used to intimidate black voters from going to the polls.
“I want to talk to the person who wrote the DOJ memo, that came out last night in the Post,” he said. “I want a chance to talk to the actual drafter of the (memo).”
Sen. Jeff Flake was the only Republican to oppose Farr. The Arizona senator, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and is retiring at the end of his term in January, made his pledge not to back judicial nominees about two weeks ago, pushing for a floor vote on the bill to protect special counsels such as Robert Mueller.
Democrats had hoped Scott would vote against Farr, but he voted to invoke cloture Wednesday, a procedural step advancing the nomination to a final floor vote.
Democrats have pointed to Farr representing North Carolina in a challenge to the state’s 2013 voting law, which included a controversial voter ID provision that a federal appeals court deemed was enacted “with racially discriminatory intent” and targeted black voters.
“Every American should be alarmed by the attempt to confirm a nominee with Farr’s egregious record on voting rights, particularly with the Republican agenda to maintain power by limiting access to the ballot now on full display,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Monday.
Scott’s opposition to specific Trump nominees has led to the pulling of at least one other nomination.
In July, the White House withdrew the nomination of Circuit Court hopeful Ryan Bounds moments before the nominee was to face his Senate confirmation vote following Scott’s decision to raise concerns to Senate leaders. Scott’s concerns revolved around the content of Bounds’ writings – which critics labeled racially insensitive – while at Stanford and the fact that Bounds did not disclose the writings to a bipartisan committee of attorneys in Oregon that had recommended him for Ninth Circuit job.