In a dramatic move Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell withdrew the nomination of President Donald Trump’s pick for the Ninth Circuit, Ryan Bounds, after reports surfaced that his nomination didn’t have enough votes for confirmation.
Bounds, an assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon for the last eight years, was the Trump administration’s first nominee to the Ninth Circuit, named in September to replace Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, for whom Bounds clerked. O’Scannlain took senior status at the end of 2016.
Both of Bounds’ home-state senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, opposed his nomination. They withheld their blue slips for Bounds, in part, claiming he failed to disclose to their screening committee opinion pieces he wrote for a conservative student paper during his undergraduate studies at Stanford University.
In one article, Bounds railed against “race-focused groups” on college campuses, accusing them of fostering what he described as “race-think.” During his confirmation hearing, Bounds acknowledged the “overheated” and “overbroad” nature of his rhetoric, but defended his record of helping promote diversity within the profession.
Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, had defended Bounds in prepared remarks July 13, before his nomination was withdrawn. “I don’t believe misguided statements made in a college newspaper 25 years ago should disqualify Mr. Bounds. I hope that we don’t live in a world where controversial things that we write in college end our careers forever. This is especially true with our kids and grandkids on social media,” he said.
Wyden took to the Senate floor Thursday prior to the scheduled vote on Bounds’ nomination to urge his Republican colleagues to vote against Bounds and preserve the blue slip process.
“I hope one of my colleagues will be swayed by the horrendous writings that Mr. Bounds lied to conceal,” he said.
One Republican senator, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, had indicated to colleagues earlier on Thursday he wouldn’t be able to vote for Bounds, according to a Capitol Hill reporter. Citing Bounds’ racial remarks, Scott said he needed more time before voting to approve the pick.
“Success! Ryan Bounds never should have been nominated or moved to the Floor. I’m glad the Senate stepped back from the brink today,” Merkley tweeted Thursday afternoon.
The Center for American Progress’ judicial nominations-focused campaign, Why Courts Matter, tweeted in celebration of July 13’s news, writing: “Thank you @SenatorTimScott! We can’t allow nominees with racist records on our bench. #CourtsMatter”