Can Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen save Michael Delaney’s nomination? Ask fans of New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Democratic primary.
The Democratic duo are viewed as political power players in New Hampshire, but in Washington, D.C., they are in the back of the political pack. And the latest example is making headlines as the judicial nominee they’ve gone all-in on is about to go down without a fight.
The two Democrats have thrown their whole-hearted support behind the nomination of the former New Hampshire attorney general for the First Circuit Court of Appeals. But despite their aggressive efforts, his nomination has been repeatedly delayed in the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate confirmed six Biden appointees just this week. But Delaney can’t get on the docket.
Biden announced the nomination on January 18. Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) still refuses to commit to a date to take up his nomination because he doesn’t have the votes.
The news that broke on Wednesday won’t help.
Politico reported Delaney spent five years on the board of the free-market New England Legal Foundation, which opposed Biden administration policies vastly expanding the Environmental Protection Agency’s power over the economy. Delaney “served on a committee that vets amicus briefs advancing the group’s pro-business and deregulatory positions,” the news site reported.
Politico also quoted a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee (who they declined to identify) as saying the report sparked “concerns.”
“This was a voluntary organization [where] he was taking up certain ideological positions that are contrary to both the administration on forced arbitration, organizing rights. These are things that are very problematic,” the senator said.
Delaney already had enough “problematic” to go around. Progressive senators have questions about his record on abortion rights and the treatment of sexual assault victims.
Delaney represented the elite St. Paul’s School in Concord after 15-year-old Chessy Prout was assaulted by another student. Delaney wanted the court to strip the teen victim of her anonymity if she insisted on pursuing a civil case against the school. His actions outraged victims’ advocate organizations.
At least three civil rights organizations, including the National Women’s Law Center, say they have “grave concerns” about Delaney. And national abortion rights organizations are also declining to back the Democrat because he signed a brief defending the state’s parental notification abortion law while serving as deputy attorney general.
Hassan and Shaheen continue to demand their fellow Democrats back Delaney, who has been a loyal party operative for years. They sent their spokespeople out to make the case for Delaney, Politico reported.
“Before considering Michael Delaney’s nomination, Senator Shaheen reviewed his full record, which includes his fierce defense of LGBTQ rights, bringing criminals to justice, and leading one of the most significant legal battles against a massive oil company in New Hampshire state history,” said Sarah Weinstein, a spokesperson for Shaheen. “Michael Delaney’s wide scope of supporters includes individuals in the advocacy and legal sectors, as well as judges on the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which reaffirm his respected reputation as a public servant committed to seeking justice.”
Laura Epstein, a spokesperson for Hassan, sent a similar statement. “His background has been thoroughly vetted, and throughout his career, he has shown a strong commitment to justice, including supporting civil rights and the environment,” Epstein said. “His strong, bipartisan support from a wide cross-section of leaders — from public defenders to Attorneys General from 20 states across the country to the CEO of New Hampshire’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) — underscores why he will make for an excellent First Circuit Judge.”
But just as happened with the First in the Nation primary, it doesn’t appear their fellow Democrats are listening. At least five Senate Democrats have said on the record they have serious concerns about the Delaney nomination, and sources say there are several more who haven’t spoken out publicly.
“At this point, they have to hope Delaney does the right thing and drops out to save face for the senators,” a New Hampshire political insider told NHJournal. “This nomination has been a humiliating mess from the beginning.”
The First In The Nation fiasco was particularly embarrassing for Shaheen. Just days before Biden’s pushed New Hampshire under the bus, she claimed she had assurances from the White House the state’s position was safe. Instead, Biden stripped New Hampshire Democrats of their primary, and the DNC voted overwhelmingly to approve it. Hassan and Shaheen had no influence on their fellow lawmakers or Democratic leaders.
Shaheen, 76, was once a formidable voice on foreign policy and defense issues in Congress. Today, she rarely takes questions from the press, and her handlers keep her well away from less-than-friendly reporters.
Hassan and Shaheen have also been on the losing end of several high-profile votes in recent weeks. They voted against legislation to stop a Biden administration rule allowing private retirement fund managers to consider ESG issues when investing their clients’ money. The bill passed over their objections. And they both voted to protect Chinese solar companies from punishing tariffs after they were caught attempting to evade U.S. trade rules. Same result.
The lack of influence has real-life consequences, Republicans say, pointing to a CNBC analysis that showed New Hampshire got fewer dollars from the 2021 infrastructure bill than any other state. As a result, it also has one of the lowest per capita spending numbers, too.