WASHINGTON – Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, announced Thursday he would oppose a controversial President Donald Trump judicial nominee, killing the judge’s chances of confirmation to be a federal judge
In announcing his decision, the South Carolina senator cited a Department of Justice memo obtained by The Washington Post that included information on Thomas Farr’s alleged role in the intimidation of black voters by the campaign of then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C.
Scott said the memo “created more concerns” and Thursday afternoon he decided he could not support Farr.
“I am ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge,” Scott said.
Farr has denied that he was involved in the intimidation, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Scott’s announcement followed Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., earlier in the day who said he was “not prepared to support Tom Farr, regardless.” Flake has been holding up all judicial nominations over demands that the Senate bring up an unrelated bill to protect the special counsel but on Thursday he said even if he got that vote he still could not support Farr.
Republicans have 51-49 Senate majority and the two Republicans and every Democrat voting against, Republicans don’t have the numbers to confirm Farr. Farr’s nomination narrowly advanced to a floor vote Wednesday. Scott had voted to advance the nomination.
The Senate vote was originally set for a final vote Thursday morning, but that was rescheduled when it became clear there were too many undecided votes and one of the “yes” votes, Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK., was out for a family emergency.
Democrats have opposed Farr’s nomination based on his judicial record, which they say demonstrates a hostility to voting rights. Farr’s critics say that as an attorney hired by the state, he defended racially gerrymandered congressional districts in North Carolina, as well as a law that would require photo identification to vote.
A panel of federal judges struck down the photo ID law, saying it targeted African-American voters with “almost surgical precision.”
“There is simply a preponderance of evidence that Farr was involved, often intimately, in decades of voter suppression in North Carolina,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday.
He said Scott “has done a courageous thing, and he’s done the right thing.”
The Congressional Black Caucus and national civil rights groups have strongly opposed Farr’s nomination, citing concerns about his record on voting rights issues, voter suppression efforts and reports of his involvement with Helms.
“We believe that his appointment to the federal bench would completely undermine the integrity of the court system,” Derrick Johnson, president of the national NAACP, said in an interview Wednesday with USA Today. “He is not someone that is worthy to serve on the federal bench because he seeks to deny access to not only African-Americans (but) to many citizens who may have a different political view than he holds.”
Johnson said three busloads of NAACP members from North Carolina traveled to Capitol Hill Wednesday to lobby against Farr’s nomination.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights icon, said “the problems this nominee represents are beyond partisan difference. They threaten the very foundation of our democracy.”
The judicial opening Farr has been nominated to fill has contributed to the controversy. Former President Barack Obama nominated two African-American women to the seat, but both nominations stalled and neither received a hearing. They would have been the first black judges to serve on the on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Farr isn’t the only nominee to be blocked or have to withdraw. There have been at least four others before him.
Contributing: Christal Hayes, Richard Wolf, Deborah Barfield Berry