- Criticism from Senate Democrats could give the White House hesitation about the nomination.
- Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin said Chad Meredith “wouldn’t be my choice.”
- Biden’s potential nomination of Meredith has fueled a backlash following the overturning of Roe.
WASHINGTON — Several Senate Democrats said they would vote against the confirmation of a conservative, anti-abortion federal judge nominee if President Joe Biden follows through with a purported deal with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The strong reaction from Democrats on Biden’s planned nomination of attorney Chad Meredith in Kentucky raised the prospects of the president’s own party blocking the pick should he move forward.
“All I’m going to tell you is I’m going to vote no,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii on Monday. “It’s his call, but if he asked me for my advice I would say I don’t know how many Democrats are planning on voting yes.”
More:Exclusive: Email shows Biden was set to nominate anti-abortion GOP judge on day of Supreme Court Roe ruling
Biden has not formally nominated Meredith, a Federal Society attorney who has fought against abortion rights. But – as first reported exclusively by The Courier Journal – a White House official informed Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s office in a June 23 email that it planned to nominate Meredith to a U.S. District Court judgeship in Kentucky’s Eastern District the next day.
The following morning, however, the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade ending the constitutional right to abortion and sending shockwaves across the nation. Meredith’s intended nomination was not announced or submitted.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee, which takes up federal judicial nominations, said he spoke last week to the White House about the potential Meredith nomination.
“What’s in it for us? They didn’t give a specific answer,” Durbin told reporters, according to Politico. He said Democrats would not support Meredith’s confirmation “on his merits alone.”
Durbin told USA TODAY he needs to “know more” including whether there was any arrangement with McConnell, adding: “It wouldn’t be my choice for judge.”
Biden could try to win support of a Meredith nomination with Republican votes in an evenly-dived Senate. But a president fighting his own party for a lower-court judicial nominee would be highly unusual, and he would have to overcome a Judiciary Committee controlled by Democrats.
McConnell has refused to comment until Biden officially submits a nominee, but his camp has dismissed talk of a deal as “false information.”
More:Biden urged to rescind GOP judge pick as McConnell camp calls deal talk ‘false information’
Biden’s potential nomination of Meredith has fueled a backlash from progressive activists who have demanded bolder action from the Biden administration following the Supreme Court decision.
Several pro-abortion rights groups have called the potential nomination “unacceptable” and demanded Biden not move ahead with it.
“From what I’ve read, I would have some concerns with that nominee,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. “I don’t know the individual person, so this is based on what I’m reading. But I do not think this is the kind of person that a Democratic majority should put on bench based on what I’m reading.”
Beshear, who has also called on Biden to rescind Meredith’s name, and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, have expressed outrage, with Yarmuth and other officials telling The Courier Journal that Biden must have worked a deal with McConnell so he wouldn’t hold up future White House nominations.
Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., bemoaned that such a deal could exist.
“This is the kind of political trading that is created when you have bitter partisanship and have trade offs like that where people do things that they normally would never think of doing,” Hickenlooper said.
More:EXCLUSIVE: ‘Privileged’ White House emails confirm Biden plan for anti-abortion GOP judge
The White House has repeatedly declined to comment on the status of Meredith’s confirmation and whether there was ever a deal with McConnell.
“I’ll say this to you, which is, we do not comment on vacancies,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week. “This is a vacancy. It’s not something that we’re going to comment on. We don’t comment on executive branch or judicial vacancies. We have not made a nomination yet.”
Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said she’s “not pleased” the White House put forward Meredith’s name.
“I think that we absolutely won’t support the judge,” Rosen said, “(or) anyone who comes forward and says that they are clearly against a woman’s right to choose her own health care, have her own choices with regard to her reproductive freedom.”
Rosen’s Democratic Senate colleague in Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, through a spokeswoman said she would not support Meredith’s nomination either.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the nomination is “not real until they send the name on,” noting that the president has still not formally submitted Meredith’s name to the Senate.
“I think no one that’s hostile to abortion to women’s health in choice should be nominated,” Brown said. “He should not send the name on.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.