GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina defended his decision to oppose one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal Friday.
The letter followed a Journal editorial criticizing Scott for joining Democrats to stop the confirmation of Thomas Farr to a federal district court in North Carolina. Farr’s nomination was controversial because of his legal work on behalf of Republican Sen. Jesse Helms’ 1984 and 1990 re-election campaigns, which were sanctioned by the Department of Justice because for voter suppression tactics.
“There’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of Mr. Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican,” the editorial reads. “But Democrats will see Mr. Farr’s defeat as a vindication of their most underhanded and inflammatory racial tactics.”
“We must not seek to sow the seeds of discord, but rather embrace the power of unity,” Scott’s reply reads. “Simply put, if the Senate votes on a candidate that doesn’t move us in that direction, I will not support him or her.” The senator added that he was “saddened” by the editorial.
Scott is the Senate’s only black Republican.
In 1984 and again in 1990, the Helms campaign sent postcards to predominantly black precincts warning voters as part of a ballot security program. In 1991 the Justice Department concluded that the goal of these programs was to suppress black turnout. (RELATED: Supreme Court Turns Back Challenge To Trump’s Border Wall)
The North Carolina legislature later retained Farr to defend the state’s congressional district map and a new voter ID law against legal challenges to both measures. Federal courts have criticized both on civil rights grounds.
The Farr nomination is not the first time that Scott has broken with the party over a judicial nominee — he also defected to the Democratic Party to oppose Ryan Bounds’s nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
As a college student at Stanford, Bounds produced provocative opinion columns for the campus’ conservative newspaper, some of which touched racial topics. Though Bounds has since repudiated those writings, civil rights groups adamantly opposed his confirmation.
Scott and other lawmakers also noted that Bounds failed to share the columns with the Senate Judiciary Committee, though the nominee questionnaire does not elicit college-era writing.
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