Plan dropped to nominate anti-abortion lawyer for judgeship

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FILE - S. Chad Meredith, Kentucky solicitor general, speaks to members of the media after making arguments before the Kentucky Supreme Court at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Thursday, June 10, 2021. On Friday, July 15, 2022, the White House dropped plans to nominate Meredith, an anti-abortion lawyer backed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, for a federal judgeship in Kentucky. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP, Pool, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House dropped plans Friday to nominate an anti-abortion lawyer backed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for a federal judgeship in Kentucky.

The decision to back off the nomination of Chad Meredith came amid a split between McConnell and Republican Sen. Rand Paul, his fellow Kentuckian, over the selection.

The White House pointed to resistance from Paul in abandoning the nomination.

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

A Paul spokeswoman did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Friday evening.

President Joe Biden had intended to nominate Meredith for a district court judgeship in eastern Kentucky. The plan, first revealed by the Courier Journal of Louisville, had languished for several weeks. The potential nomination drew resistance from Democrats from Kentucky to Washington.

McConnell, a key player in putting conservatives on the federal bench during Donald Trump's presidency, told The New York Times that the White House intended to follow through on its commitment to nominate Meredith until Paul objected.

Meredith, a well-known conservative in Kentucky, defended the state's anti-abortion laws in court. He also successfully defended a state law that stripped Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of his emergency power to implement COVID-19 restrictions.

Meredith previously served as chief deputy general counsel to former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. Meredith then worked for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who appointed him as the commonwealth’s first solicitor general in 2019. He left government to join a law firm. Meredith's father, Stephen Meredith, is a state senator in Kentucky.

The decision to abandon the Meredith nomination caused reverberations in Kentucky. Scott Jennings, a Kentuckian and former adviser to President George W. Bush, called it a “sad day” and said it was “indefensible what’s happened to him.”

“Chad is a terrific human being and exactly the kind of young, conservative judge you’d want on the bench,” said Jennings, who has close ties to McConnell. “He could’ve been there for four decades. It’s a miracle McConnell had Biden talked into it and a tragedy that Senator Paul killed the nomination.”

Abortion-rights supporters applauded the development.

In a statement, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said: “We’re pleased that the Biden administration made this decision — it’s the right call. With abortion rights and access on the line in Kentucky and across the country, it is absolutely essential that all judges defend and uphold our fundamental rights and freedoms, including reproductive freedom.”

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Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky.

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