Groundhog Day: Dems Punt Vote On Controversial Judicial Nominee Once Again

Repeated delays suggest Michael Delaney does not have the votes needed for confirmation

Biden circuit court nominee Michael Delaney / Senate Judiciary Committee
May 18, 2023

Senate Democrats punted a confirmation vote for one of President Joe Biden’s most controversial judicial nominees yet again Thursday.

Although a vote for Michael Delaney’s nomination to the First Circuit Court of Appeals appeared on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda, chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) skipped over his name at the beginning of the meeting. Instead, the committee voted on several bipartisan law enforcement bills.

Delaney has run into a number of hiccups since he was first nominated in January, largely over his mishandling of a civil case that involved a 15-year-old sexual assault victim. During that case, in which Delaney represented an elite boarding school, he motioned to strip the victim, Chessy Prout, of her anonymity. Prout and her parents were in attendance at the judiciary committee hearing on Thursday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) was also in attendance, in contrast to last week’s committee hearing. Her presence is notable as Democrats had paused most votes for judicial nominations when she was absent due to illness. But with Feinstein back in the Senate, the fact that Democrats did not hold a vote on Delaney suggests he has run up against problems within his own party.

The lack of a confirmation vote on Delaney was noted by Republicans on the committee, including Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.). The Tennessee lawmaker said the fact that the Democratic-controlled committee even considered confirming Delaney suggests "hypocrisy," from a party that often champions victims’ rights.

"As we reviewed his record when he came before this committee, he did not deny his use of hard ball tactics against a 15-year-old girl," Blackburn said before she asked Democrats to oppose his confirmation.

Other issues within Delaney’s record have emerged as well. Left-wing groups have called on Senate Democrats to oppose his confirmation given his work with a conservative-leaning think tank.

Earlier this month, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Delaney’s decision to omit his role in New Hampshire’s largest Ponzi scheme on a Senate questionnaire. As New Hampshire’s attorney general, Delaney oversaw a systemic "failure to detect and protect against the fraud inflicted on its citizens," according to a report issued by that office.