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McConnell withdraws Trump judicial pick minutes before vote

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a stunning move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has withdrawn one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees just minutes before he was set for a confirmation vote.

McConnell announced Thursday on the Senate floor that he was pulling the nomination of Ryan Bounds. Trump had nominated the assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon to be a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The withdrawal of the nomination is a blow to the White House. Judicial nominations are rarely pulled back at such a late stage in the process unless a nominee does not have the support to pass.

Republicans have been able to use their thin majority to push several of the president’s nominees through despite overwhelming Democratic opposition. Sen. John McCain’s absence due to his battle with brain cancer has given the GOP even less cushion, with Republicans holding a 50-49 voting edge.

That cushion evaporated when Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said he needed more information about Bounds.

“After talking with the nominee last night and meeting with him today, I had unanswered questions that led to me being unable to support him,” Scott said.

The two senators from Bounds’ home state, Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, had both objected to his nomination, saying they were not consulted by the Trump administration before the choice. They highlighted writings from Bounds’ years at Stanford University that they said revealed alarming views on race, the rights of workers and the gay community.

The Senate gives lawmakers a chance to weigh in on a judicial nominee from their home state by submitting a blue-colored form called the “blue slip.” A positive blue slip signals the Senate can move forward with the nomination process. The blue slip courtesy is designed to generate consultation between the executive branch and Congress. The two Oregon senators signaled their objections by returning a negative blue slip, which in the past has generally stalled a nomination.

This time, Republicans opted to move forward anyway, which meant that if Bounds had been confirmed, it would have been the first time since at least 1956 that a nominee had been confirmed with both home state senators returning negative blue slips.

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