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Biden judicial appointee withdraws as Dems fail to find Senate committee votes

 May 19, 2023

A surprising turn of events has led Michael Delaney, one of President Biden's judicial nominees, to withdraw his nomination after failing to secure the votes needed to advance.

Delaney, who was nominated for the First Circuit Court of Appeals, announced his decision in a letter addressed to President Biden. He expressed his gratitude for the nomination and the continued support from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, Fox News reported.

"I am most respectful of the Senate's constitutional role in considering my nomination. At this time, I believe it is appropriate for me to withdraw my name from consideration for this position to advance the important work of the federal judiciary," Delaney wrote.

Support from New Hampshire Senators

Despite the controversy, Delaney received strong support from New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both Democrats. They jointly expressed their disappointment, stating, "We strongly supported Michael Delaney’s nomination to serve as a First Circuit judge. We know personally his strong character and commitment to justice, and he earned the support of New Hampshire and national leaders," NBC News reported.

They added, "We disagree with the criticism that has been leveled against him, and we are disappointed that it got in the way of confirming a highly qualified individual."

Delaney's Withdrawal: A Sign of Failed Support

Delaney was initially scheduled to vote on Thursday morning at a committee business meeting. However, his name was removed from the agenda, indicating insufficient votes for his nomination to proceed.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) commented on the situation during the meeting, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that nominees are fit for the bench and public office. She also highlighted what she perceived as hypocrisy in some nominations and votes.

"We have members of this committee who ask everybody that comes before us, ‘have you committed sexual harassment and sexual assault?’ And yet they’re willing to vote for a judge who used hardball tactics against a girl to cover up that a private, elite school was guilty of pushing and participating and removing anonymity from a student at that school," Blackburn stated.

Controversy Surrounding Delaney's Past Case

Blackburn's comments likely referred to Delaney's involvement in a 2014 case where he defended St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, in a rape case involving two students.

The controversy arose from a motion Delaney filed during the 2014 court proceedings that could have required the victim, a female student who was a minor at the time, to have her anonymity lifted. This move has been criticized as a 'hardball' tactic against a minor. It remains unclear which Democrat or Democrats on the committee opposed Delaney or why. However, Blackburn expressed her belief that Delaney's actions in the case should have disqualified him.

Blackburn further stated, "As we talk about people that are unfit for public service, Michael Delaney is one of those individuals." She added that during the committee review, Delaney did not deny his use of ‘hardball’ tactics against the 15-year-old girl.

Reaction to Delaney's Withdrawal

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded to the development, stating, "President Biden put forward a deeply qualified nominee, with a long and distinguished career in public service. The White House will consult with New Hampshire’s Senators to identify a new nominee."

Bates also expressed the President's eagerness to work with both Democrats and Republicans to continue his record of nominating and confirming individuals dedicated to the rule of law and representing the diversity of the country.

Implications for Future Nominations

Ranking committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued a warning during the meeting, stating that having a majority in the committee allows the majority party to "tend to pick people that are being pushed by the most partisan folks on either side of the aisle."

Graham stressed that while he supports his colleagues' discretion in collaborating with the White House to pick nominees, it should not be without bounds. He referred to the situation as a "wake-up call" for all involved.

Initially inclined to support Delaney's nomination, Graham admitted that the confirmation hearing changed his mind. "Through the process of the hearing — and I want to compliment my colleagues for asking hard questions — you proved, I think, that Mr. Delaney was not ready for primetime. I think the questions you asked he couldn’t give a coherent answer to," Graham said.

Graham concluded by suggesting that the committee should not only ask nominees if they have ever done anything wrong but also take action when a nominee can't provide a coherent answer.