President Joe Biden has reportedly struck a deal with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to nominate an anti-abortion lawyer to a lifetime federal judgeship in Kentucky, news that comes less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion.
According to Louisville’s Courier-Journal, Biden has agreed to nominate Republican attorney Chad Meredith once there’s a federal court vacancy in Kentucky, where abortion was outlawed immediately following the high court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Friday.
In exchange, McConnell (R-Ky.) has purportedly agreed not to obstruct the president’s future judicial nominations — a vow that was met with deep skepticism from outside observers, given the Kentucky Republican’s long record of cynical machinations that have yanked the Supreme Court and lower courts to the right for decades to come.
The broad sketch of the agreement between Biden and McConnell was confirmed Wednesday by the office of Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who voiced opposition to any deal to elevate Meredith to a lifetime post on the federal judiciary, which McConnell has succeeded in filling with far-right, young, and often badly unqualified judges handpicked by the Federalist Society.
“That last thing we need is another extremist on the bench,” Yarmuth said of Meredith, who defended state-level attacks on abortion access as Kentucky’s solicitor general.
Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker also slammed the agreement, which he characterized as a “complete slap in the face.”
The President is making a deal with the devil and once again, the people of Kentucky are crushed in the process.
At a time when we are fighting to protect human rights, this is a complete slap in the face.
This is some bullshit. https://t.co/A4LV6PxSeK
— Charles Booker (@Booker4KY) June 29, 2022
In the eyes of reproductive rights advocates who are working to defend basic freedoms from the Supreme Court and GOP legislatures, the timing of Biden’s deal with McConnell — which would’ve drawn outrage in any case — couldn’t have been worse.
“We elected you to PROTECT abortion access, not nominate anti-abortion judges as our rights are stripped away!” tweeted Women’s March, which has promised a “Summer of Rage” in response to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Roe v. Wade. The organization has also said it would support primary challenges against Democrats complicit in the right-wing takeover of the nation’s judiciary.
Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates East added that “lifetime appointments to federal courts for people with records like Chad Meredith are unacceptable and the reason we have lost the federal right to abortion.”
“We deserve better,” the group said.
The outlines of the president’s agreement with the Senate’s top Republican came as the White House is facing backlash for failing to do everything in its power to defend abortion rights in Republican-led states that are moving aggressively to ban the procedure, throwing pregnant people across the country into chaos and endangering their health and livelihoods.
In an interview that aired earlier this week, Vice President Kamala Harris said the White House is not currently discussing a proposal — backed by prominent progressive lawmakers — to utilize federal property to ensure abortion access for people in GOP-controlled states.
As Reuters reported Wednesday, “the White House is pursuing a more limited set of policy responses while urging voters and Congress to act. The White House’s plans include a range of executive actions in the coming days, as well as promising to protect women who cross state lines for abortions and support for medical abortion.”
“Biden and officials are concerned that more radical moves would be politically polarizing ahead of November’s midterm elections, undermine public trust in institutions like the Supreme Court, or lack strong legal footing,” the outlet added.
But with public confidence in the Supreme Court already at an all-time low, critics are warning that the White House’s refusal to act boldly to reform the court and shield abortion care could have devastating consequences, allowing Republicans and their allies in the courts to trample more rights as the GOP looks to seize control of the federal government in the upcoming midterms and in 2024.
Denouncing Biden’s deal with McConnell as a “massive betrayal,” Jezebel’s Laura Bassett argued late Wednesday that “if Democrats are going to continue asking people to vote to make up for what we lost on Friday, they are going to need to show us something much different than this.”
“Biden is under a lot of pressure to fill the current court vacancies he has with judges who are friendly to reproductive rights. And instead, he is making deals with McConnell to allow more anti-abortion judges into the fray,” Bassett wrote. “There is no excuse for it.”