Alleged Deal between Biden and McConnell on Judicial Nomination Spiked by Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) spiked an alleged behind-the-scenes deal between Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that involved nominating a pro-life lawyer to a federal judgeship.

Biden had faced backlash from the Democratic base for agreeing to nominate Kentucky attorney Chad Meredith for a vacant federal district court judicial position in the state. McConnell had told reporters that there was no agreement with Biden regarding the proposed nomination and simply constituted a “friendly gesture that reflected a more collegial, bygone era of the Senate.”

It was confirmed Friday that Paul used a Senate procedure regarding nominations to end the nomination even before it was formally made.

Many commentators and Democrats expressed surprise and frustration that Biden had apparently agreed to nominate Meredith, who as a state lawyer had defended Kentucky’s pro-life law and is a member of the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society.

Even though McConnell said there was no agreement with Biden regarding the proposed nomination, he said he was frustrated that Paul sank the process. Paul indicated that he would not return a “blue slip” on Meredith that would signal his support for the candidate.

The Senate practice is for senators to return blue slips expressing their consent to judicial nominations for positions in their states. The process allows either senator in a state to block a nomination for a lifetime federal judgeship.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates issued a press statement on Friday indicating that the administration had learned that Sen. Paul did not intend to return a blue chip on Meredith. Bates said that as a result, Biden will not nominate Meredith.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) told reporters that the unexpected announcement of the plan to nominate Meredith appeared to be part of some arrangement that would see McConnell facilitate other Biden nominees through approval in the evenly split Senate.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju released a statement expressing satisfaction that Meredith would not be appointed. Timmaraju said that the group wanted to see judges appointed who will “uphold our fundamental rights and freedoms, including reproductive freedom.”

The nation may not ever know all the details of the agreement that Paul effectively blocked by nixing Meredith’s appointment. Supporters of the conservative senator are likely to agree with him that the benefit of having a pro-life district judge appointed did not offset the cost of whatever McConnell had agreed to give up in return.