WASHINGTON — Several Senate Democrats said they would vote against the confirmation from a conservative, anti-abortion federal judge candidate if President Joe Biden goes ahead with an alleged agreement with the leader of the Republican minority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
The strong reaction of the Democrats in Biden’s planned nomination of attorney Chad Meredith in Kentucky he raised the prospect of the president’s own party blocking the election should it go ahead.
“All I’m going to tell you is I’m going to vote no,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said Monday. “It’s his call, but if you asked my advice, I’d say I don’t know how many Democrats plan to vote yes.”
Biden has not formally nominated Meredith, a lawyer for the Federal Society who has fought against the right to abortion. But – as first reported exclusively by The Courier Journal – A White House official told Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s office in a June 23 email that he planned to nominate Meredith for a judgeship on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky the next day.
However, the next morning, the US Supreme Court issued its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion and shocking the entire country. Meredith’s intended nomination was neither announced nor submitted.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which handles federal judicial nominations, said he spoke to the White House last week about Meredith’s potential 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 “just on her merits.”
Durbin told USA TODAY that he needs to “know more,” including whether there was any agreement with McConnell, adding, “He would not be my choice for judge.”
Biden could try win support for a Meredith nomination with Republican votes in an evenly divided Senate. But a president fighting his own party for a lower court judicial nominee would be highly unusual and would have to beat a Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee.
McConnell has declined to comment until Biden officially puts forward a candidate, but his camp has dismissed talk of a deal as “false information.”
Biden’s potential nomination of Meredith has sparked a backlash from progressive activists who have demanded bolder action from the Biden administration following the Supreme Court’s decision.
Several pro-abortion rights groups have called the potential nomination “unacceptable” and called on Biden not to go forward with it.
“From what I’ve read, I have some concerns with that candidate,” said SenTim Kaine, D-Va. “I don’t know the individual person, so this is based on what I’m reading. But I don’t think this is the kind of person that a Democratic majority should put on the bench based on what I’m reading.”
beshear, who has also asked Biden to rescind Meredith’s name and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, expressed outrage, with Yarmuth and other officials telling The Courier Journal that Biden should have struck a deal with McConnell so as not to delay future White House nominations.
Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, lamented that such an agreement could exist.
“This is the kind of political exchange that is created when you have bitter partisanship and trade-offs like that where people do things that they would normally never think of doing,” Hickenlooper said.
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 tell you this, which is we don’t comment on vacancies,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week. “This is a vacancy. It’s not something we’re going to comment on. We don’t comment on executive or judicial vacancies. We haven’t made a nomination yet.”
Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada, said she “doesn’t like” the White House coming up with Meredith’s name.
“I think we absolutely will not support the judge,” Rosen said, “(or) anyone who comes forward and says that it is clearly against a woman’s right to choose her own health care, to have her own choices regarding her freedom reproductive.”
Rosen’s Democratic colleague in the Nevada Senate, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, said through a spokeswoman that she also would not support Meredith’s nomination.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the nomination “isn’t real until they submit the name,” noting that the president has not yet formally submitted Meredith’s name to the Senate.
“I think no one who is hostile to abortion for women’s health should be nominated,” Brown said. “He shouldn’t send the name.”
Contact Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate Democrats would vote against Biden’s anti-abortion judge pick