Biden’s plan to nominate anti-abortion lawyer to federal bench draws fire from Nevada senators

Former NV lieutenant governor, now working in White House, emailed intent to KY governor

By: - July 7, 2022 5:36 am

Nevada Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen. (Photos: Ronda Churchill/Nevada Current; Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Following reports that the Biden administration intended to nominate a Republican attorney who opposes abortion rights to become a federal district judge, Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen panned the idea and asserted they would vote against the prospective nominee.  

The Kentucky-based Louisville Courier Journal reported this week a June email exchange between Kate Marshall, who in 2021 resigned as Nevada’s former lieutenant governor and now serves as senior adviser to governors in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear that revealed Biden intended to recommend Chad Meredith for the lifetime appointment in Kentucky.  

The nomination, according to the report, was set to come the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the nearly 50 year old ruling that established abortion as a constitutional right.

According to the Courier Journal, Marshall sent a June 23 email to a Beshear staffer which said: “To be nominated tomorrow: … Stephen Chad Meredith: candidate for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.”

In statements Wednesday afternoon, the offices of Cortez Masto and Rosen said the senators would oppose Meredith if he is nominated.  

“Senator Cortez Masto is opposed to anti-choice judicial nominees,” said Lauren Wodarski, a spokesperson for Cortez Masto. “With women’s reproductive rights under attack across the country, she has no intention of supporting such a nominee now. Should Mr. Meredith be nominated, she will vote against him.” 

Joe Bush, a spokesman for Rosen’s office said that “Sen. Rosen has consistently opposed federal judicial nominees who have displayed outwardly anti-choice views and will continue to do so.” 

“In light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and Republican efforts at the state and federal level to ban abortion, Sen. Rosen has called on President Biden to use every available tool at his disposal to protect reproductive rights,” Bush said. 

The preliminary nomination was believed to be part of a deal Biden made with Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Minority Leader to get McConnell to not stall other Biden nominations.

National abortion rights groups have criticized the prospect of the White House even considering Meredith, a member of the the right’s Federalist Society judicial pipeline. Beshear calle the move “indefensibile.”

In a statement to the Courier Journal, groups including Planned Parenthood Federation Of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America wrote “We are in this moment because anti-abortion judges were intentionally nominated at every level to take away our fundamental right to abortion — and given his record, we know Chad Meredith would be no exception.”

The White House has repeatedly declined to discuss Meredith’s prospective nomination with media since the Courier Journal originally reported the story last week.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Democratic lawmakers have been pressed to take more federal action to secure access to abortion services. 

The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, which prohibits government restrictions on access to abortion services, passed the House in September, but has stalled in the Senate were it faces a Republican-led filibuster. 

While Biden recently noted he supports breaking the filibuster in order to codify abortion protections, that would require support of all 50 Senate Democrats.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona have opposed reforming the filibuster.

Cortez Masto and Rosen joined 33 Senators June 25 calling on the Biden Administration to take “bold action.

In a letter, the Democratic lawmakers wrote the administration has “the power to fight back and lead a national response to this devastating decision. 

“So we call on you to take every step available to your Administration, across federal agencies, to help women access abortions and other reproductive health care, and to protect those who will face the harshest burdens from this devastating and extreme decision,” they wrote.

The administration has shot down suggestions proposed by Democratic lawmakers to use federal facilities to provide access to abortions.

“We understand the proposal is well-intentioned, but here’s the thing: It could actually put women and providers at risk,” said White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre said in June.

Much attention instead has been placed on the election and adding to Democratic majorities to overcome a filibuster to pass abortion protections.

During a press conference July 1, Cortez Masto warned if her opponent Republican Adam Laxalt wins the seat it would pave the way for a national abortion ban. 

“(Sen. Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell has said that he is not opposed to further restricting abortion through federal legislation for an abortion ban,” she said. “If he wins, and he takes control of the Senate again, they’re gonna be on track to try to pass a federal abortion ban which will preempt our state laws…”  

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.