Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) told Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidObama’s November surprise This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress Week ahead: Spending fight shifts from Zika to Flint MORE (D-Nev.) in December to stay out of his decision to nominate a replacement for former Sen. Max Baucus (D).
Bullock said Reid called him to offer a suggestion before the news of the senator’s ambassadorship to China was made public.
Bullock eventually tapped his Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D) to the position — a decision many expected since Walsh was already running to replace Baucus.
Baucus was set to retire at the end of this year before making an early departure to fill the diplomatic post.
“I said, ‘You know what. Stay out of my decision-making. This is a decision I make and no one else. This is one of those decisions that voters have entrusted me with,’" Bullock said.
The Montana GOP has criticized Bullock’s decision to appoint Walsh as taking “marching orders” from Reid and President Obama in an attempt to give a boost to Walsh ahead of the midterm election.
"If there was a backroom deal, I certainly was never invited to that back room," Bullock said.
When asked if Reid did eventually ever give his suggestion, Bullock did not directly answer the question. According to the Independent, he told reporters to contact Reid.
The full Senate unanimously approved Baucus earlier this month for the China post. Walsh was sworn in for the abbreviated term earlier this week.
Walsh is facing an uphill battle to retain the seat in a red-leaning state that President Obama lost in the 2012 election. He has trailed in polls and has been outraised by his likely general election opponent Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
—Updated 5:05 p.m.