Tim Scott

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., pauses outside of a GOP luncheon at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Sen.  File/J. Scott Applewhite/AP

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, the lone black Republican in the Senate, may have cost President Donald Trump another judicial nominee.

In a statement released shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, the South Carolina lawmaker announced he would not support Thomas Farr for a federal judgeship in eastern North Carolina. Farr had faced increased scrutiny for advocating racial tactics in the past. 

The seat is the nation's oldest federal judiciary vacancy, and has been open since 2005.

But open, it seems, it shall stay after concerns were raised about Farr's involvement in a campaign focused on disenfranchising black voters in 1990 while Farr worked for the late Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. 

"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, and I am proud that Senate Republicans have confirmed judges at an historical rate over the past two years," Scott said in his statement.

"This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities. This, in turn, created more concerns. Weighing these important factors, this afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr’s nomination."

A confirmation vote was supposed to be held at noon Thursday but it was rescheduled after U.S. Sen. James Inhofe had to return to Oklahoma for a family emergency, Inhofe's office said.

The rescheduling shows how narrow GOP lawmakers expected the vote to be without one of their own there to vote in favor, and it came after Vice President Mike Pence had to cast the tie-breaking vote Wednesday to advance Farr's nomination.

Senate Republicans could afford to lose only one vote to confirm Farr after U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R- Arizona, said he would oppose Farr's nomination. 

The fight over whether Farr, a 64-year-old lawyer from Raleigh, was fit to serve on the federal bench, centered on Farr's past in the courtroom and in the Helms campaign.

The outcry, particularly from Democrats, came over Farr's defense of a racially gerrymandered House map in North Carolina and his role in drafting the state's voter ID law, which a federal court later ruled had targeted African Americans "with almost surgical precision."

Before the originally scheduled noon vote Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged Senate colleagues to rethink their support for Farr.

"We're being asked to confirm the go-to guy in North Carolina to defend voter suppression," Schumer said, later adding in his remarks on the Senate floor, "It takes but an ounce of principle to say 'no, I'm not defending voter discrimination and voter suppression.'"

Scott's decision marks the second time in four months that he has helped tank one of Trump's judicial nominees over concerns about racial issues.

Sign up for updates!

Get the latest political news from The Post and Courier in your inbox.

In July, Scott stated he was unable to support judicial nominee Ryan Bounds of Oregon after Stanford University college writings emerged in which Bounds wrote about "race-focused groups" on campus and "race-think."

Scott's decision to oppose Farr came after days of speculation since he looked to be the deciding vote. After his statement was released, prominent South Carolina Democrats cheered Scott's decision.

"Boom! I knew he would do what was right! Thank you @SenatorTimScott !" tweeted Jaime Harrison, a top official at the Democratic National Committee and former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman. 

Farr's confirmation vote is currently scheduled for next week.

Leading up to Thursday's vote, Scott continually stated he needed to do "more research." It wasn't until his statement Thursday that Scott provided a clear answer on where he stood.

"The thing I hold myself accountable for is doing the right thing, not the politically acceptable, not the politically expedient, but the right thing based on the evidence," Scott said in an interview Wednesday night on Fox News. 

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.