Vice President Mike Pence provided the tie-breaking vote Wednesday afternoon to advance the nomination of lawyer Thomas Farr, who once defended a notorious segregationist, to a lifetime appointment on the U.S. District Court.
It was initially unclear whether Republicans had the votes to even make it to a tie-breaker. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona stuck to his word—whatever that’s worth at this point—and voted against Farr’s nomination on the grounds that the Senate first pass a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. But with Sen. Susan Collins being, well, Susan Collins, Flake’s vote shifted the spotlight to Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who in July helped block the nomination of Ryan Bounds over comments Bounds made mocking multiculturalism.
The vote marks the fourth attempt by two Republican presidents to give Farr the judgeship for the Eastern District of North Carolina, where he would represent a population that is 30 percent black. Farr was formerly a campaign lawyer for segregationist Jesse Helms, a longtime North Carolina senator. More recently, he worked for the North Carolina GOP to implement voter ID laws and redistricting maps, both of which disproportionately targeted black citizens.
Not long after the vote, PBS NewsHour reported that Scott said while he voted “yes” on the cloture note, he’s undecided on the final vote.
After roughly an hour of the vote sitting at 50-49, Scott entered the Senate chambers and cast an “aye” vote in support of Farr, prompting Pence to stroll out and deliver the tie-breaker. And with that, barring any change of heart come the confirmation vote, they sent Farr on his way to the bench and ensured that the stench of Helms will linger on North Carolina’s hide for another couple decades.