Biden nominates 5 new judges, but not Republican abortion opponent

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated five new federal judges, but did not at this time move forward with a plan opposed by a growing number of Democrats and progressives to appoint a Republican abortion opponent to a judgeship in Kentucky.

The latest nominees include Cindy Chung, a prosecutor Biden previously picked to serve as the U.S. attorney for Pittsburgh and is now seeking to make the first Asian American ever on the Philadelphia-based the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Biden also named four nominees for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, including two state court judges in Philadelphia who previously worked as public defenders representing indigent defendants.

Those two nominees are Judges Mia Perez and Kai Scott. The other two nominees are Kelley Hodge, a partner at the law firm Fox Rothschild, and John Murphy, a partner at Baker & Hostetler.

Not on Biden's latest nominees list was Chad Meredith, a Republican former Kentucky solicitor general who the White House planned on June 24 to nominate to a judgeship despite his record defending abortion restrictions.

That day, though, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing a nationwide right to abortions. The nomination did not occur, though the White House has declined to say if it would later.

Biden on Friday said the Supreme Court decision was an exercise in "raw political power" and signed an executive order to ease access to services to terminate pregnancies.

Democratic Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky has said Meredith's appointment was likely "a part of some larger deal on judicial nominations" with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, which McConnell has not confirmed.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, suggested on Monday Democrats might not support Meredith. "What's in it for us?" he asked reporters.

The latest nominations came as progressives have stepped up calls for the White House and Senate Democrats to move quicker to fill 120 judicial vacancies before Republicans can potentially retake the chamber in November's midterm elections.

"It would be a historic mistake to not take advantage of the coming weeks," said Russ Feingold, a Democratic former senator from Wisconsin and leader of the American Constitution Society.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington; Editing by Marguerita Choy)