President Joe Biden called for filibuster reform Thursday in order to restore abortion rights. That’s great. What’s not great is the agreement he has made with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to appoint a vehemently anti-abortion, Federalist Society-backed lawyer to a potential seat on the federal judiciary.
Biden has agreed to nominate Chad Meredith, who served as deputy counsel to former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and more recently as solicitor general for Attorney General Daniel Cameron, for a seat in Kentucky’s Eastern District, when the next vacancy opens up because a sitting judge retires or moves to senior status. There isn’t an opening now, but there is one judge eligible for senior status and another potential opening on Aug. 1. In return for this nomination, McConnell has promised not to hold up future federal nominations from Biden.
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear have confirmed the agreement, and both are extremely unhappy with the possibility. In a press conference Thursday, Beshear spoke of the agreement, reiterating that it hasn’t happened yet, “which I hope means in the very least it’s on pause.” He continued, “If the president makes that nomination, it is indefensible.”
“Given that a judicial position isn’t currently open on the Eastern District Court, it’s clear that this is part of some larger deal on judicial nominations between the president and Mitch McConnell,” Yarmuth told the paper. “I strongly oppose this deal and Meredith being nominated for the position. The last thing we need is another extremist on the bench.”
Yes, that is the last thing needed on the bench. It’s not just that Meredith is bad on abortion, though he is. He defended a 2017 Kentucky law requiring that doctors perform unnecessary ultrasounds on people seeking an abortion, and forcing the doctor to describe the image to the patient. He also defended a Kentucky state law that stripped the governor of his emergency powers to respond to a public health crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even more controversially, Meredith helped the extremely corrupt former Gov. Matt Bevin to issue pardons and commutations before he left office in 2019. One that he worked on included a pardon for Patrick Baker. The Guardian describes his crime, a house invasion and robbery-turned-murder: “Baker knew the hardest part of the home invasion would be getting past the front door, so he devised a plan to dress up as police officers conducting a routine investigation.”
“Once inside the Mills family home, Baker revealed his true colours. He tied up the mother of the family, ignoring the pleas of the three children present, stole money and objects, then turned a gun on the father, Donald Mills, shooting him dead.”
Bevin, with the help of Meredith, pardoned Baker. The Courier Journal uncovered what was behind that pardon. Baker’s family held a political fundraiser for Bevin, raising $21,500 to retire his campaign debt. In addition, Baker’s brother and sister-in-law gave Bevin’s campaign $4,000 that day.
The Trump White House was vetting Meredith for a federal judgeship when that story came out, and actually dropped him from consideration for the job. He was too problematic for Trump. And Biden has agreed with McConnell to nominate him in return for a promise on other nominations, and boy, you can sure count on McConnell keeping his promises.
This is so absolutely cynical on so many levels. One, it shows an assumption on Biden’s part that, while he’s exhorting Democrats to work and voter harder to increase the Democratic majority in the Senate, he’s conceding that McConnell is in charge and likely will have the majority in the next Congress. This is also happening while Republicans are blocking nominees, even their own choices, and Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin is letting them do it.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has been refusing to provide a blue slip for a nominee that he put forward for the Eastern District federal court. Durbin is honoring that, for no good reason at all.
A coalition of more than two dozen progressive organizations is calling on Biden to fill every single vacancy now available, so safeguard the judiciary as much as possible against Republicans. “As the number of announced judicial vacancies has risen to 119, we urge you to redouble your efforts in the final seven months of this Congress,” the organizations including Demand Justice, MoveOn and NARAL Pro-Choice America wrote. “At the current pace, dozens of these vacancies will remain unfilled at the end of the year, and we urge you to do whatever it takes to fill them all.”
Instead of making deals with McConnell on a potential vacancy for someone that was too awful for Trump to nominate, Biden should be working with Durbin now to fill existing vacancies with judges that match the caliber of his other nominations. This session of Supreme Court atrocities demonstrates better than anything how critical that is.
Election law attorney Adam Bonin joins Daily Kos Elections’ The Downballot podcast to talk about what moves Democrats can make