Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed a new coronavirus relief bill loaded with health care funding for patients and medical providers affected by COVID-19. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the measure “dead on arrival.” McConnell says he feels no “urgency” to spend more money mitigating the pandemic. But he does feel an urgent need to confirm as many federal judges as possible before the 2020 election. The Senate has confirmed eight judges since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States. And on Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings for another: Cory Wilson, Donald Trump’s nominee to 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.* Like so many other nominees, Wilson appears to have been nominated, in part, because of his fierce hostility to the Affordable Care Act. In the midst of a public health crisis, McConnell is not just refusing to aid our struggling health care system. He is installing judges who want to tear it down and strip coverage from more than 20 million Americans.
The 5th Circuit seat for which Wilson is nominated has a troubled history. Trump originally nominated Halil Suleyman Ozerden, a federal district court judge, to the seat in 2019. Ozerden is a George W. Bush appointee and a member of the Federalist Society with a record of conservative rulings. Republican senators frequently claim they are simply seeking judges who will apply the law as written, not demanding partisans who will follow their party platform. Yet multiple Republicans deemed Ozerden insufficiently loyal because he threw out a challenge to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. Ozerden’s 2013 decision was narrow; he simply found the lawsuit premature because the Obama administration was still amending the rules. The ruling was enough, however, to convince Republicans that Ozerden wouldn’t toe the GOP party line.
In response, Trump abandoned Ozerden and chose Wilson for the seat instead. A former Republican member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, Wilson has already been nominated to a federal district court in Mississippi, but was never confirmed. He has served on the state’s Court of Appeals since 2019. (The American Bar Association rated Wilson “well qualified” because of this service.)
Wilson might as well have been hatched in a Federalist Society lab; his lengthy political record reveals a deep commitment to Republicans’ political goals. Alliance for Justice, a progressive group that has opposed most of Trump’s judicial nominees, compiled a record of Wilson’s many controversial positions. Examples of his partisanship are not difficult to find. Wilson called Barack Obama “King Barack,” “petty and small,” “a fit-throwing teenager,” the “Anointed One,” a “radical leftist,” and “shrill, dishonest, and intellectually bankrupt.” He charged Obama with running the “most paranoid and politicized White House since Nixon.” He has also called Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary,” “criminal and clueless,” and either “felony dumb or willfully ignorant.” And he falsely accused her of destroying documents under subpoena.
Then there’s Wilson’s loathing for the ACA. He has called the law “illegitimate,” “perverse,” “big intrusive government” that “is less about healthcare than it is about redistribution of wealth and power.” In 2012, he declared: “For the sake of the Constitution, I hope the Court strikes down the law and reinvigorates some semblance of the limited government the Founders intended.” He has tweeted about his enmity toward the ACA 30 times.