When the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee approved another tranche of Biden judicial nominees Thursday, 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Michael Delaney failed to make the cut yet again.
It was the latest embarrassment for New Hampshire’s senior Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who has put her political weight behind the problematic nominee only to see her fellow Democrats ignore her efforts.
Approval of all Biden nominees has been held up by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s absence from the Judiciary Committee. Due to health and age, she has missed over 70 percent of Senate votes thus far this year. The 89-year-old California Democrat has struggled mentally and physically with the duties of her office for years. Feinstein conceded the point when she handed the committee chairmanship to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
With Feinstein sidelined, the committee is currently tied 10-10 between the two parties and can’t send nominees to the Senate floor without at least one GOP vote.
While seven Democrat-backed nominees were able to pick up Republican votes on Thursday, not so with Delaney, who, according to multiple media reports, doesn’t even have the full support of Democrats.
Delaney is a longtime Democratic supporter of Shaheen and a former New Hampshire attorney general. At issue is his mishandling of a sexual assault case while he was defending the elite St. Paul’s private school in Concord. Delaney demanded the teen girl who had been sexually assaulted on campus be stripped of her anonymity if she insisted on suing the school. Victim’s rights groups have expressed outrage. Human rights organizations also oppose his nomination.
And then there is Delaney’s questionable record on supporting abortion rights. As deputy attorney general, he signed off on a 2005 brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court defending the state’s parental notification law.
As a result, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is “noncommittal” about his nomination. The National Women’s Law Center has “grave concerns.” And the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence finds his behavior toward victims of sexual assault “problematic.”
At least three Democrats have declined to say if they would back him in a vote by the full Senate, where he would need every Democratic vote for confirmation.
But Hassan and Shaheen still stand by their man. Rather than acknowledge Delaney’s controversial treatment of a sexual assault victim, Shaheen lashed out at women’s rights groups opposing his nomination.
“I think those progressive groups did not do their homework very well,” Shaheen said. “They have factual inaccuracies in what they’ve said.”
Asked to name an “inaccuracy” from the victim rights groups opposed to Delaney’s nomination, Shaheen declined to respond.
It may not matter. According to NBC News, “Durbin’s strategy had been to advance batches of judicial nominees together, whether they have bipartisan support or not. In this case, he shelved five nominees who lack GOP support, including Michael Delaney to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals and Charnelle Bjelkengren to be a district court judge in Washington.”
Delaney’s demise would be another black eye for the Granite State’s all-Democrat delegation. Despite telling Granite Staters the tradition was safe, Hassan and Shaheecould not save the state’s First-in-the-Nation primary from being canceled by President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.
A Politico headline last month read, “New Hampshire’s Dem Senators Bet Their Party Clout on Divisive Judicial Pick.”
Today, D.C. Democrats are asking, “What ‘clout?’”
Hassan has never been a major political force in Washington, more likely to make headlines for minor scandals than major policy initiatives. As for Shaheen, the once-formidable player in U.S. foreign policy will be weeks away from turning 80 years old when her term ends in 2027. Speculation is rife that the political focus of the Shaheen family will turn to her daughter Stefany.
Shaheen has refused to answer inquiries about Delaney’s nomination, and her handlers control press access to help the senior Senator avoid difficult questions from the media.
If the two Democrats have any political juice inside the Senate, it currently isn’t on display in the Delaney case.
“Biden looked her in the eye and lied to her about the primary,” one longtime N.H. political insider told NHJournal. “He’s not worried about [upsetting her]; why should anyone else?”