Dem 51
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GOP 49
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The Perils of a 51-Vote Majority

The good news for the Democrats is that, at least of this moment, their Senate majority is back at full strength and available to push through presidential nominees without Republican support. The bad news is that a successful confirmation requires at least 50 votes from the Democratic caucus, a 51-person group that includes, among others, Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), and Jon Tester (D-MT), along with a number of members who are very sensitive to the concerns of progressive voters and/or women voters. So, it's not always possible for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to herd the cats.

Case in point is Michael Delaney, who was tapped by Joe Biden to serve on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. He served as chief counsel for the governor of New Hampshire for three years, from 2006-09, and then as the state's AG from 2009-13. Given this résumé, and the elbow-rubbing it entails, he had the enthusiastic support of New Hampshire's two senators, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen (both D).

However, Delaney also has some liabilities. Since leaving office, he's worked for the law firm of McLane Middleton. In that capacity, he defended a school (St. Paul's) that was sued by a student for looking the other way during a sexual assault. He's also done work that had him lining up with anti-choice, anti-regulation, and global-warming-denial interests. That's not such a great list, as far as most Democrats are concerned, and quite a few senators were not enthused about putting Delaney on the federal bench for the rest of his life. The return of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), as it turns out, was not enough to drag the nomination over the finish line, even with a few anticipated Republican votes. So, it is expected that the nomination will be withdrawn sometime this week. Which, given that it's Friday, kind of implies today.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Labor-designate Julie Su has the opposite problem that Delaney does. As tends to be the case with would-be secretaries of labor, she's pretty lefty, and has, in her career, been an advocate for... labor. In particular, while she was running California's version of the Department of Labor, she backed gig workers in their efforts to organize. Also during that time, to her detriment, she oversaw a COVID relief program that was quite a mess, and that saw lots of fraud. Of course, clumsily implemented, fraud-prone COVID relief problems were hardly unique to California.

Su is pretty clearly the most qualified candidate, since she was deputy to now-departed Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. In view of Su's lefty record, she got zero Republican votes when she was confirmed to her current position, and she'll get none when she's considered for the big chair. She did get all 50 Democratic votes the last time out, but these days, there are several senators who are looking to burnish their "maverick"/centrist profiles in highly visible fashion, among them the aforementioned Manchin, Sinema and Tester. So, even though the blue team has one vote to spare as compared to 2021, Su's confirmation is on much shakier ground.

The Biden administration really, really wants Su. Again, she's extremely qualified. She diversifies the Cabinet in a politically helpful manner. And given the imminent loss of the Delaney nomination, Team Biden doesn't particularly want two black eyes in short order. So, the White House is currently putting on the full-court press to try to get Su confirmed. Will it work? Well, clearly it's not hopeless, or the Su nomination would have already been pulled. On the other hand, she must not have the votes at the moment, or else Schumer would have already scheduled a vote. So, it's anyone's guess as to how this particular drama ends. (Z)

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