About that deal McConnell struck with Biden for a pro-life judicial nomination...

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

It was destined to be too good to be true. Why would a president who is pro-abortion and beholden to progressive women agree to nominate a pro-life lawyer to become a federal judge? That is the story that the Louisville Courier-Journal published at the end of June. Now the New York Times reports that the deal is off.

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When I wrote about it last month, I was skeptical, and frankly, confused, as to why such a deal would be made. Politico reported the agreement was made between Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer in the Senate. McConnell agreed not to hold up future federal nominations by the Biden White House if Chad Meredith is nominated to the federal bench when a vacancy comes up. Currently, Meredith is in private practice. He is the former deputy counsel to former Governor Bevin. He served as solicitor general for Kentucky for Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is now running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2023. Meredith is a member of the Federalist Society.

Democrats went nuts when the Courier-Journal story broke. Two of the most outspoken critics of the agreement were Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Louisville) and Governor Andy Beshear. Oddly enough, the Biden administration was set to honor the deal, allegedly due to Biden’s longtime history of working with McConnell in the Senate, until it was torpedoed by…Senator Rand Paul. A Republican tanked the deal to put a pro-life judge on the federal bench in Kentucky’s Eastern District when a vacancy opens up, which is thought to be in the near future.

Mr. McConnell, the minority leader, who has a deep interest in shaping the federal judiciary, said the White House intended to follow through on its commitment to nominate Mr. Meredith until Mr. Paul objected. Mr. Paul informed the White House that he would not return a “blue slip” consenting to the nomination of Mr. Meredith, who is now in private practice.

The blue slip tradition followed by the Senate Judiciary Committee effectively gives home-state senators veto power over the selection of federal district court judges for their states.

“In considering potential district court nominees, the White House learned that Senator Rand Paul will not return a blue slip on Chad Meredith,” Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said Friday in a statement. “Therefore, the White House will not nominate Mr. Meredith.”

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Frustration abounds. Why did Senator Paul do it? As I write this, there has been no comment from the senator’s office. The original story exposed the fact that back channel communication still happens between Biden and McConnell, though McConnell is committed to defeating Biden’s legislative agenda and to putting conservatives on the bench. McConnell’s spin was that the White House was doing him a personal favor. That makes no sense, though. Why would Biden’s White House willingly agree to put a young conservative on a federal bench as a personal favor to the senior senator from Kentucky? McConnell promising in exchange to not hold up Biden’s other judicial nominations would be a good deal for the White House but to agree to nominate a staunch pro-life conservative just before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade was a bold move.

But Democrats had made it clear they were displeased with the potential nomination of Mr. Meredith, wondering aloud why Mr. Biden would have agreed to name a person who opposed abortion rights, and what he might have extracted from Republicans in return.

“I said, what’s in it for us?” Senator Richard J. Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters this week, describing how he pressed the White House on the Kentucky court seat nomination. “They haven’t given me a specific answer.”

Mr. McConnell said that he had made no pledge to the White House to do anything in return for Mr. Biden accepting his recommendation, an appeal he made through Ron Klain, the chief of staff.

“There was no deal,” said Mr. McConnell, adding that Mr. Biden’s consideration represented the kind of “collegiality” and once routine cooperation on home-state judges that has diminished in recent years. “This was a personal friendship gesture.”

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This whole story has been weird. Since when has Biden shown gestures of friendship to Republicans in Congress? He’s too busy name-calling and painting his opposition as evil and extreme. Perhaps Senator Paul will comment and explain his action. Maybe he has someone in mind to nominate but there’s sure no guarantee that he’ll get anyone approved by Team Biden.

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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024
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