Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., walks to the Senate floor for a vote on the energy bill, at the Capitol in Washington, May 12, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Why it’s so hard to believe that Rand Paul is ‘undecided’ on Kavanaugh

There isn’t yet a firm head-count on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, but when looking for Senate Republicans who might – might – break ranks, most of the attention is focused on less conservative members such as Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wants everyone to believe that list is incomplete – because he should be seen as an in-play vote, too. Politico reported yesterday that the Kentucky Republican considers himself “genuinely” conflicted on Donald Trump’s choice for the high court.

Rand Paul is one of a handful of senators who’ll determine whether Brett Kavanaugh lands on the Supreme Court — and the Kentucky Republican has every intention of maximizing his leverage.

Paul is again inviting fellow senators to play the will-he-or-won’t-he guessing game when it comes to his decision – expressing grave concerns about Kavanaugh’s approach to personal privacy while insisting his vote could go either way, depending on what the judge says in the coming weeks and months.

Paul told Politico, “I am honestly undecided. I am very concerned about his position on privacy and the Fourth Amendment. This is not a small deal for me. This is a big deal. Kavanaugh’s position is basically that national security trumps privacy. And he said it very strongly and explicitly. And that worries me.”

Naturally, rhetoric like this is helping put the senator in the spotlight – which I imagine is the point of the exercise – but I suspect the chances of Rand Paul opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination are pretty close to zero.

The trouble is, the senator’s track record doesn’t do him any favors. A few months ago, for example, Paul vowed to do “whatever it takes” to defeat Mike Pompeo’s Secretary of State nomination. After being labeled a “hard no,” he voted for Pompeo anyway, following some vague rhetorical assurances that amounted to very little.

As we discussed at the time, his reversal followed a debate in which Paul voiced all kinds of concerns about the GOP’s health care repeal plans, before eventually voting for the final Republican plan anyway. Paul was even briefly critical of his party’s regressive tax plan, before he endorsed it.

It’s not that Rand Paul never follows through – he did shut down the government for a few hours in February for no apparent reason – but he is developing a reputation as a guy who easily folds under minimal pressure. The result is lingering damage to the senator’s credibility.

Donald Trump said in April, “I will say this about Rand Paul: he’s never let me down. Rand Paul is a very special guy, as far as I’m concerned. He’s never let me down. And I don’t think he’ll let us down again.”

Keep that quote in mind as the fight over Kavanaugh moves forward.