Despite their razor-thin numerical advantage over Democrats, Senate Republicans were able to put together a long and impressive winning streak in confirming President Trump’s court of appeals nominees. That winning streak came to an ignominious end today. Not because Sen. Susan Collins or Sen. Lisa Murkowski balked at a conservative nominee. But because Sens. Tim Scott and Marco Rubio ambushed a superb conservative.
Their victim, Ryan Bounds, is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Oregon. He has served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief of Staff in the Office of Legal Policy at the Justice Department and as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy.
Bounds has extensive appellate court experience. He served in the Appellate Unit as a Special Assistant at the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office, briefing and arguing criminal appeals before the D.C. Circuit and the D.C. Court of Appeals. He also briefed and argued cases in the Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits while serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy at the DOJ. In addition, he clerked on the court to which he was nominated — the Ninth Circuit
Bounds is a solid conservative. At Yale, he was vice president of the law school’s chapter of the Federalist Society. The judge for whom he clerked, Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, is a leading conservative jurist. Bounds is just the kind of highly qualified conservative the ultra-liberal Ninth Circuit needs.
So why did Scott and Rubio sink his nomination? They did so because Scott claimed he didn’t have enough information to vote “yes,” and Rubio said he would stand with his under-informed colleague. Lacking the votes needed to confirm, Majority Leader McConnell announced that the nomination was withdrawn (I’m told Bounds requested this).
Scott’s doubts about Bounds apparently are based on some of his writings as an undergraduate at Stanford. The young Bounds had snarky things* to say about multiculturalism, as conceived by “some of the more strident racial factions of the student body.”
Bounds made these comments 25 years (or so) ago. He has apologized for their tone.
Dinging a nominee based on such college writings is ridiculous. The Wall Street Journal’s editors put it mildly when they say, “these are flimsy and unfair grounds to defeat a nominee.”
What’s more, Bounds’ writings have been part of the debate over his nomination for months. In May, liberal Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to beat Bounds up with them.
If Scott had concerns about the writings, he should have spoken to Bounds about them or obtained more information well before the Senate was about to vote. But Scott apparently was asleep at the switch. Thus, months of effort to confirm this nominee have gone up in smoke — time that could have been used to confirm other nominees if Scott truly viewed Bounds’ ancient snark as a deal breaker.
What really gets me is that Scott and Rubio apparently voted for cloture — i.e., to end debate on Bounds and bring his nomination to a vote. As I understand it, once cloture is invoked, there must be a vote. Either that, or the nomination must be withdrawn.
Thus, there was no way to supply Scott with the information he claimed he needed. It was too late for that. McConnell had to fish or cut bait, and Scott wouldn’t let him fish — not successfully, at any rate.
This was a truly pathetic performance by the South Carolina Senator and his Florida colleague — one with potential adverse consequences for Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
The Democrats’ main strategy for blocking Kavanaugh is to demand every piece of paper Kavanaugh has ever written as an adult and every paper he laid his hands on as the person in charge of paper flow at the Bush White House. This means millions of pages. The Dems will then demand months to review the documents. By the time they are all produced and reviewed, it will be 2019, and a new Senate will be in place. That’s the plan.
Republicans will counter that there is no need to review Kavanaugh’s old papers. They will say, quite rightly, that the Democrats are just stalling.
But now we have two conservative Republican Senators on record that the writings of a nominee when he was in college — not even in law school — can provide the basis for nixing the nominee.
The point isn’t lost on Sen. Schumer. His spokesman wasted no time declaring:
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.
Ironically, Senators Collins, Murkowski, Flake, and Corker have all expressed skepticism about the scope of the Democrats’ demands for Kavanaugh’s documents. Corker said that asking for all of Kavanaugh’s paperwork “feels dilatory to me.” Flake said that demanding all 1 million-plus pages seemed excessive and that the request “needs to be reasonable.”
But now Senators Scott and Rubio, both considered to the right of the four Senators mentioned above, have provided fuel for the obstructionist Democrats.
That plus sinking a well-qualified conservative nominee for a court that desperately needs some. It adds up to a very bad day’s work.
* You can read Bounds’ comments in this Washington Post article. Here is what I take to be the most relevant part of it:
In one of his Stanford articles, Bounds described a phenomenon he called “race-think,” in which “multiculturalistas” and ethnic minorities bonded together to form groups of “racial purity” that he claimed ended up creating more division.
“During my years in our Multicultural Garden of Eden,” he wrote, “I have often marveled at the odd strategies that some of the more strident racial factions of the student body employ in their attempts to ‘heighten consciousness,’ ‘build tolerance,’ ‘promote diversity’ and otherwise convince us to partake of that fruit which promises to open our eyes to a PC version of the knowledge of good and evil. 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.”
The reference to Nazi bookburning is over-the-top and merited an apology. But does Scott seriously believe that a writing like this by a college student should bar the author from the judiciary decades later? Does Rubio?
I sure hope not.