- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Senate held off voting on President Trump’s longest pending judicial nominee Thursday after the chamber’s sole black Republican signaled he was not going to back the North Carolina lawyer, potentially derailing the nomination.

Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, won’t be voting for Thomas Alvin Farr for the Eastern District of North Carolina after Democrats accused the nominee of past discrimination against African American voters.

He told The State newspaper a 1991 Justice Department memo detailing Mr. Farr’s participation in “ballot security” activities concerned him.

“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,” Mr. Scott told the paper.

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.

But Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, who strongly supports Mr. Farr, hired an outside investigator to evaluate the claims against him.

“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 during a hearing earlier this year.

Still, Mr. Farr’s confirmation remains in limbo, as Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona is also rejecting the nominee, not on his qualifications, but rather as a protest against the chamber not voting on legislation to protection special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. Flake has vowed to vote against all the president’s nominees until the Senate considers the bill.

Mr. Farr can only afford to lose one Republican lawmaker’s vote in the closely divided chamber.

It’s unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, will appease Mr. Flake’s demands to obtain his vote for Mr. Farr before Christmas, or if the Senate will hold off considering the nominee until the new year when Mr. Flake retires and the GOP has a plus two seat majority.

Mr. Farr’s 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.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, celebrated Mr. Scott’s decision to oppose the controversial nominee.

“Senator Tim Scott has done a courageous thing, and he’s done the right thing. Thomas Farr has been involved in the sordid practice of voter suppression for decades and never should have been nominated, let alone confirmed to the bench,” Mr. Schumer said.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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