- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Senate Republicans overcame a Democratic filibuster Wednesday to advance the nomination of Thomas A. Farr — though his confirmation is not certain, with the Senate’s sole black Republican signaling he’s not a definite supporter in a final vote looming Thursday.

The GOP surmounted the filibuster on a 51-50 vote, with Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, backing Mr. Farr.

He would not say publicly whether he’ll be on board when it comes to the confirmation vote to install Mr. Farr on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

“I am comfortable with my vote so far and intend to do my homework and research,” Mr. Scott told reporters, adding that he wants more sensitivity to issues of civility and appearances of voter suppression.

“There are a lot of folks that can be judges in states throughout the nation, including North Carolina, other than Tom Farr,” he said.

Mr. Farr’s nomination has become a major test for the GOP in the lame-duck session of Congress.

Democrats are in lockstep against him, complaining that he has been an architect of the suppression of black voters.

Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, joined Democrats in their filibuster, though his concern isn’t Mr. Farr. He’s using all judicial nominations a leverage to try to pressure the GOP leaders to allow a vote on an unrelated bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by President Trump.

That standoff also forced Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley on Wednesday to cancel the committee’s meeting for Thursday where nearly two dozen more judicial nominees were up for consideration on a divided committee where the GOP has only a one-seat advantage, the Iowa Republican told reporters.

Wednesday’s full Senate confirmation vote, though, showed no other Republicans are prepared to follow Mr. Flake in his rebellions, which is critical to their hopes of confirming more Trump judges over the next few weeks.

If any other Republican had sided with Mr. Flake, it could have brought confirmations to a halt. Instead, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, as he did Wednesday, the GOP can power nominees through.

That still leaves Mr. Farr, though.

His nomination has been pending for more than 500 days, and the North Carolina judgeship to which he was nominated has been vacant since 2005.

President George W. Bush first nominated Mr. Farr for the post in 2006, but Democrats declined to take action, and his pick expired at the end of the Bush administration.

President Obama then named two different black women for the seat, but they were blocked by GOP objections.

Democrats call that a travesty — particularly on a court that’s never had a black judge, despite a population where perhaps 3 in 10 residents are black.

Democrats also object to Mr. Farr’s past work, first as campaign lawyer for the late Sen. Jesse Helms and then as a lawyer defending the state’s voter ID law. A federal appeals court said that law had targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

Mr. Farr also reportedly counseled members in the state assembly about drawing congressional maps that a court has ruled a racial gerrymander.

Mr. Scott on Wednesday said he’s going back and reviewing some of those past cases ahead of his final vote Thursday.

He was talking with Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, who has defended Mr. Farr and said he hired an outside investigator to look over the accusations against Mr. Farr.

“He came back and said, ‘I’m completely convinced that the inference you would draw from comments from other people on the other side of the aisle are false. They are not supported by the facts and I believe you have somebody who is well-qualified to be a district judge,’” Mr. Tillis said.

But after Wednesday’s vote, he wouldn’t say confirmation was a slam dunk. “We move in 24-hour cycles here,” Mr. Tillis told reporters.

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