‘Indefensible’: Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

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Yves here. This post about Biden’s latest bad trade illustrates why Team Dem is in the mess it is. The Republicans play for keeps. The Dems play for the next news cycle.

Having said that, I wonder if the relationship between McConnell and Andy Beshear is what drove how this trade went down (not that Biden should have gone along). The Beshears are the Democratic dynasty in that state, and have also been overmuch involved in the Kentucky Retirement Systems fiasco.

By Jake Johnson, a staff writer at CommonDreams. Originally published at CommonDreams

The details of President Joe Biden’s deal with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to nominate an anti-abortion lawyer to a lifetime federal judgeship came into clearer focus on Friday, sparking fresh calls for top congressional Democrats to block the proposed agreement.

Slate‘s Mark Joseph Stern reported Friday that “McConnell will allow Biden to nominate and confirm two U.S. attorneys to Kentucky”—positions that are term-limited—if the president nominates Republican lawyer Chad Meredith to a post on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

“Under the arrangement, Meredith would take the seat currently occupied by Judge Karen Kaye Caldwell, a George W. Bush nominee,” Stern noted. “Caldwell submitted her move to senior status on June 22, which, once complete, will allow Meredith to take the seat. A lawyer with connections to the Kentucky governor’s office who is familiar with the agreement told Slate that Caldwell conditioned her move upon the confirmation of a successor—specifically, the conservative Meredith.”

The terms of the deal as well as its timing—right on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision last week to strike down Roe v. Wade—infuriated Democratic lawmakers and advocates who are currently fighting to shield reproductive rights from Republican officials like Meredith, who defended anti-abortion laws during his tenure as Kentucky’s solicitor general.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who had planned to recommend nominees for the Eastern District in the case of a vacancy, told Slate that Biden’s deal with McConnell is “indefensible” and that he has expressed his “outrage” to the White House, which has yet to publicly acknowledge the arrangement.

“I understand how brutally manipulative Mitch is, but at some point you have to stand up to him,” Yarmuth told the outlet. “You have to just confront him and say, ‘No, we’re not gonna appoint your people. We’re not gonna let Mitch McConnell appoint judges and other federal officials in a Democratic administration.'”

McConnell’s ability to obstruct Democrats’ U.S. attorney nominees despite being in the minority stems from the majority party’s—and, apparently, the president’s—continued adherence to the “blue-slip” tradition that gives senators veto power over nominees for posts in their home states.

Senate Republicans abandoned the blue-slip courtesy when they were last in power, and progressives have urged Democrats to follow suit.

Ian Millhiser, a senior correspondent for Vox, slammed the Biden-McConnell deal as “unconscionable” and called on Democratic leaders to ensure Meredith is not confirmed.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “should pledge that Meredith will receive no hearing,” Millhiser wrote.

“And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer,” Millhiser added, “should pledge he’ll get no floor vote.”

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  1. Skippy

    I don’t know and this is frivolous, but in the spirit of what Lambert points out about the Dem party is it not apparent by now that the Dem party could be called the … roll over rover party – ????? – yap yap yap … hay boy want a treat … roll over … look at me … gives treat … good boy … runs back off into yard to frolic …

    On the other hand the Republicans just say out of the house and stay in the yard till we come to you at our leisure … bad dog, bad dog, for tracking in the beastly filth … know your place beast …

    1. anon y'mouse

      i’ve heard it said they play the Washington Generals to the Repub’s Harlem Globetrotters.

      since the whole thing is fake and both sides are paid mostly by the same people, i prefer that analogy as the more realistic one.

      aside: Kentucky is the state that personal acquaintance’s mother coat hangered herself nearly to death in while having 9 children to support with her husband, almost killing her because she knew they didn’t need a 10th. suffice to say many of her grown children did not have kids of their own, or had one & done, as far as i know.

      1. none

        Yesterday’s Links or Water Cooler reposted a tweet that said the Republicans were like the mass shooter, and the Dems were like the Uvalde cops.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          And that woman who went in to get her own children out after the Uvalde cops obstructed her from doing it for a while . . . is like the disgruntled former Democrat voters who are ready to do something or seek something better.

  2. notabanker

    We’re not gonna let Mitch McConnell appoint judges and other federal officials in a Democratic administration.

    Seems reasonable.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      ” We’re not gonna let Mitch McConnell . . ” Really? You’re “not gonna let Mitch McConnell . . . “? Okay, lets see you ” not let Mitch McConnell . . . ”

      Meanwhile, people should consider the possibility that Biden nominated this lawyer for the same reason he engineered Thomas onto the court against heavy opposition. And that same reason is that Biden is anti-abortion and tries to pursue anti-abortion policy at every crucial “schwerpunkt”.

      1. Mike Elwin

        Now that’s an insightful point.

        It’s terribly hard to view the Democrats behavior as simply and clearly as that. We want so much for them to be who we want them to be, but they aren’t. They’re not timid, they’re not stupid. They just agree with the Republicans on most core issues. There are exceptions, of course, but overall, they’re all in the same club. They just don’t wear the ring.

        The leftish Democrats should break with the party entirely. Now is the time.

        1. bernie karpf

          What ‘leftist’ democrats?

          Do real ‘leftists’ support the torture and persecution of Assange, multiple wars for world hegemony and war profiteering, Juan Guaido as the rightful president of Venezulea, and no banking/health/energy reform?

          These democrats are all self-serving with not a care in the world at applying false narratives to control the ‘sheep’.

  3. DTK

    I’m from KY and interested in its politics. Where do I find more reading on “…also been overmuch involved in the Kentucky Retirement Systems fiasco.”? Thank You

    1. Hank Linderman

      “Kentucky Fried Pensions” by Chris Tobe might be a good place to start.

      Where do you live? I’m in Grayson County, D nominee for Congress for the 3rd time. Fwiw, women are *focused* on the next election since the overturn of Roe.


      1. DTK

        Hank, Thanks for that. Lexington. See my piece published in the Herald-Leader on Roe on Tuesday. Thanks

  4. chukjones

    I would have been disappointed with Biden here, if I had expected anything less. :-(

    1. flora

      Yep. It doesn’t surprise me. The “Senator from MBNA” knows who he represents.

      At least I’m not making excuses for the D party anymore now that I’m no longer a registered D.

  5. John

    If this was a deal, what did Biden get in return other than a big smile and a hearty handshake?

    1. Questa Nota

      Austin Powers to the rescue, once again demonstrating that nature imitates art.
      When Dr. Evil said Squid, Pro Roe, Mr. Powers you just knew that the movie was signaling nefarious quid pro quo negotiations to come.
      Now what details were those back alley room deals?

  6. NotTimothyGeithner

    I’m more convinced than ever Mother devotees in the White House are simply actively sabotaging Biden.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      So that Mother will be the ” last nominee-wannabe standing” by 2024?

      Or just for spite, hate and the pure fun of it?

  7. peon

    The Dems calculus is without a third party threat who are angry voters going to vote for,Republicans?
    They might stay home instead of vote, but that just insures Republicans win. Vote blue no matter who has been a shovel to bury Roe, national healthcare, student loan reform, etc.

    1. Big River Bandido

      I despise the Republican Party’s values. Nevertheless, I will vote for them in the fall. Democrats are actually worse.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well . . . voting LOTE is the best way to accelerationize the ongoing unravelment and subsequent burndown. People pursuing the accelarate-to-burndown path should try to be ready to survive amid the post-burndown aftermath.

        Some might even want to try pre-organizing now to conquer and own the post-burndown future once it emerges into view through the slowly clearing smoke.

      2. Michael McK

        Please consider showing both parties you despise them and vote for the Green or Peace and Freedom or anyone to the left of the Dems If they lose and see the winning votes to their left they may learn something. If they lose harder to the Reps they will just double down on militarism and corporate servitude.

  8. jefemt

    I was pondering this AM why we see the two parties get so much coverage, in terms couched in stereotyping Republicans (always fully spelled out) and Dems (nearly always truncated, dismissed— and reasonably so!)

    This propaganda/ framing keeps the system entrenched and accepted as normal, legitimate, The Way.

    Not much reporting/ opining that shines a light on how they are both sides of the same non-metal bearing alloy-laden worthless coin.

    I’m pretty effn sick of both groups in power these days. I can’t call it being in control (other than the well- directed fire hose of the bazillions of dollars floating around perfectly directed into their own coffers…)


    1. flora

      The D’s used to be run by New Deal type pols. Then it was taken over by Wall St. type pols. How did that happen?

        1. spud

          after 8 years of bill clinton, america had very little to show for it besides NAFTA, bank deregulation, and a prison-building spree.

          It Takes a Village, for example, this favorite rationale of the day—think of the children!—was deployed to explain her husband’s draconian crime bill as well as more directly child-related causes such as charter schools

          extreme poverty has increased dramatically in this country since Bill Clinton signed welfare reform in 1996.

          thomas frank exposes the real clintons, who are responsible for of all the abandoned factories and postindustrial desolation in america


          Thomas frank, bill clinton said they have no where else to go, so we can cater to the wealthy and let the middle class die off: but as frank said, that is why trump won: Thomas Frank on the Democratic Party, Their Credibility Trap, and the Beleaguered Middle Class

          “Trump was right to spike the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He is right to demand a sunset clause for Nafta. When this devious, hollow, self-interested man offers a better approximation of the people’s champion than any other leader, you know democracy is in trouble.”



           Thomas Frank: It’s Clinton Who Wrecked the Democratic Party
          63,874 views  Apr 14, 2016  Thomas Frank discusses what’s wrong with the Democratic party, giving much of the blame to Bill Clinton. Frank’s new book is Listen, Liberal! Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?


           Thomas Frank, “Rendezvous With Oblivion”
          112,192 views  Jul 14, 2018  Thomas Frank discusses his book, “Rendezvous With Oblivion” at Politics and Prose on 6/21/18.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          DLC would be part of the original bad actors. And the bipartisanship fetishists like David Boren. And the proto-Third Way subversives like Alan From.

          Tony Coelho was an early-modern pro-corporate big donor trojan horse within the party. Bill Tsongas was a harbinger of things to come.

          I suppose that Mondale’s heavy defeat by Reagan in 1980 created the despair and the opening in Dem Leadership circles which the DLC types were able to rush in and take advantage of.

          And they have carefully implanted their metatastic daughter tumors throughout the DemParty at every level.

          1. ambrit

            Mondale versus Reagan was 1984. 1980 was Carter versus Reagan.
            What is really bad about the 1984 election is that Reagan was brain dead by then. (I am still looking for confirmation of my knowledge that Hinkley actually killed Reagan in 1981. Subsequent sightings of the Arch Demon were Disney animatronic androids.)

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Thanks. My memory was pretty off there. I think the basic principle stands. Carter’s loss to Reagan was close. Mondale’s loss to Poppy was catastrophic.
              That offered the DLC etceteracrats the opening to swoop in and take the party all the way over.

              And you know . . . . part of the reason for Carter’s loss was John Anderson’s run. People who voted for Anderson would have otherwise voted for Carter, I think. I sometimes see that analysis offered about Anderson’s net effect.

      1. Paul Art

        there was once Al From and Tony Coelho and there was this rump group of Democrats who formed something called the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) in the late 1970s or thereabouts
        There is a wonderful podcast called The DIG and in that an even more wonderful 2 hour analysis of this called ‘The New Democrats’ with Lily Geismer which is a discussion of her recent book “Left Behind”. There is an earlier podcast of her previous book ‘Don’t blame us’ which was about the suburban women’s vote in the 1980s. Superlative listening. There are also other books besides Franks’s Listen Liberal like ‘Honest Graft’ by Jackson Brooks which detailed the Dem’s corruption of those times and forced the then Speaker of the House Jim Wright, Tony Coelho and the House Banking Committee Chair Fernand St.Germain to resign.

    2. deleter

      “Two wings of the same bird of prey” as Walter Karp put it in
      The Politics of War 1890-1920. Karp’s final paragraph-

      What the war generation ceased to care about, its children were
      to forget almost entirely. Who was left to remind them? Over the
      long years since 1917 the “despotism of professional politicians” has
      suffered its own ups and downs, but it has never been menaced – as
      it was menaced for so long – by free men struggling to protect their
      own freedom and regain a voice in their own affairs. From the ruins
      of the war, the republican cause has never revived to rally free men.
      It has ceased to make a difference in our politics. What the Spanish-
      American War deflected and weakened, the World War obliterated.
      And who can measure the cost of that loss, both to ourselves and
      to humanity,in whose name both wars had been fought.

  9. Camelotkidd

    For a long time I’ve envisioned the Dems as the pawl in the ratchet–where the repubs apply the rightward force then the the dems click into place to prevent any movement back but I just read a Caitlin Johnstone piece that makes a better argument. The dems are the jab.
    “Most good boxers will tell you they’d rather fight someone with a solid cross than someone with a solid jab. Sure the jab does less damage at first, but it’s such an effective strike that it can nullify your entire offense and grind you down until you can’t continue. In exactly the same way, the Democratic Party is far more effective in shutting down revolutionary movements and stagnating progress than the Republicans, and, just like a jab-cross combination in boxing, is used to set up the Republicans to deliver the knockout blow.”

  10. Mike

    Re:Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.)“ I understand how brutally manipulative Mitch is, but at some point you have to stand up to him,” Yarmuth told the outlet. “You have to just confront him and say, ‘No, we’re not gonna appoint your people. We are not gonna let Mitch McConnell appoint judges and other federal officials in a Democratic administration.’”

    Later a Republican politician could just as easily say, I understand how brutally manipulative Chuck Schumer is etc…etc………We are not gonna let Chuck Schumer appoint judges and other federal officials in a Republican administration.’”

    This is the obvious question that a reporter should ask if a functional country is a concern . Instead we get the Slate reporter acting as a Democratic Party propagandist. Slate, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, and so many others are such a waste of time to read. As far as the abortion issue is concerned, it’s strange that Oregon can go completely unrestricted and get no media attention but when Mississippi couldn’t stomach a change to 15 weeks (Germany is 12 weeks) leftists are outraged at the outcome. There should be a rational discussion of abortion laws in the rest of the world and a Congressional vote on a national standard (somewhere between 0 and 39 weeks). Instead we will get more political theater.

    1. marym

      The Dobbs case was a test case for overturning Roe, not an evaluation of specific policies in Mississippi or anywhere else.

      MS has a trigger law on the books that permits abortions only when the mother’s life is at risk or when the pregnancy resulted from a rape that has been reported to law enforcement.

      “The fate of Mississippi’s abortion trigger law, which will ban nearly all abortions in the state by July 7 if allowed to take effect, could be decided at a hearing in a Hinds County Chancery Court on Tuesday, July 5.”


      European countries have varying degrees of support for abortion. In addition to the time frame for unrestricted access to abortion, one would need to evaluate the types of exceptions allowed for access beyond that time, ease or difficulty of obtaining those exceptions, and the availability and cost of care.

      “What will Republicans do?” has already been answered. They refused to give Garland a hearing and pushed through the Barrett nomination. If anyone is asking retrospectively what the Democrats should do, the answer is refuse to give the anti-abortion nominee a hearing.

  11. Glen

    Why isn’t Biden bragging about this deal?

    After all, he’s getting slammed everyday for not getting anything done, but he got this done.

    And he’s continuing to wreck Medicare, why isn’t he bragging about that?

  12. Anthony G Stegman

    How do Biden’s actions square with him saying he will do whatever is in his power to protect abortion rights?

  13. Geocrackr

    Vichy Democrats is a label which should have become common parlance decades ago.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      How many Americans have even been taught enough history to even know what “Vichy” even is?

      Perhaps a more American name will have to be found for that concept.

  14. Dave in Austin

    Interesting story. There’s always log-rolling when it comes to appointing a US Attorney. Ditto US District Court Judges. These are usually almost invisible appointments so they are often where “hostages get traded”. Not a great system, but that’s what we’ve got. And it increases the chances that Federal appointees will be “Sensitive to local concerns”, whatever that means this week.

    Usually Senators cuts deals with the administration and have a veto on local Federal Court Judges. This case has a second dimension because the Bush-appointed incumbent Judge said “I won’t leave and take senior status unless I get the Judge I like”. I’m not sure how common this is, but Ramsey Clark was appointed Attorney General in the 1960s by President Johnson so his father, Tom Clark, would have to step down from the Supreme Court to make room for Thurgood Marshall, the first Black appointee. Log rolling is serious 3-D chess in Washington.

    In this case, the Senator and the President were in a three-way deal, not the usual two-way deal, and the third party had a veto; Biden knew he wasn’t getting the appointment anyway. But he had a pair of US Attorneys he and the Democratic Guv wanted. So it was “Let’s make a deal” time. I have no clue if the new Judge is more-or-less conservative than the old, soon-to-be “Senior Status”, Judge.

    Biden is happy; McConnell is happy; Andy Beshear, the Democratic Guv of Kentucky, is happy; John Yarmuth a Democratic Congressman from Louisville (owns some local media, has money, safe district: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Yarmuth) is not happy. He apparently was viewed as a spoiler by both Beshear and McConnell, so he found out about the appointment the hard way- probably a phone call a few minutes before the appointments were announced. He is now even less happy.

    Who got the better of the deal, Biden/Meshear or McConnell? Hard to tell. This is like one of those three-way, off-season baseball trades with three teams, five players and a draft choice involved; what’s called “Inside baseball” in DC. Only time will tell.

    Of course the really interesting story is why this is a story at all. Who’s interests does serve? We don’t know because that’s also “Inside baseball.” My guess is the appointments are a story-hook for another abortion story; let anger and outrage rein.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Was the “senioring” judge old enough to not be on the bench very much longer?

      Is the “nominee replacement” young enough that he will be on the bench and in the pipeline for decades to come? If so, maybe Legal Abortion supporters have cause to be angry and outraged.

      Maybe they can torture and terrorise the Democratic Senators into not permitting this nominee to even be acted on. Maybe that will be a first step towards pouring lighter fluid on “how things are done” in Washington and burning “how things are done” all the way down to the ground.

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