The Senate voted 66-33 to confirm Julien Xavier Neals, 56, to a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Every Democrat voted to confirm Neals, along with 17 Republicans. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the only senator who did not vote.
Neals was previously a nominee to this court in 2015, when then-President Barack Obama nominated him. But then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) let Neals’ nomination gather dust for more than a year until it eventually expired in January 2017.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted the significance of Neals’ confirmation and said he’s ready to get moving on more of Biden’s court picks.
“The first, but certainly not the last, not even close,” Schumer said ahead of the vote. “I greatly look forward to confirming what will be the first of many judicial appointments during the Biden administration.”
Progressive groups are eager to see Democrats make confirming judges a top priority now that Biden is in the White House. Thanks largely to McConnell, Donald Trump appointed more than 230 lifetime federal judges during his four years as president. That’s more than Obama (175), George W. Bush (206) and Bill Clinton (204) did in their first terms in the White House.
Trump’s first judicial nominee, now-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, was also confirmed much earlier than Biden’s. Republicans rushed Gorsuch through to confirmation on April 7, 2017, less than three months after Trump was sworn into office. Gorsuch filled the Supreme Court seat that Republicans had prevented Obama from filling for nearly a year with his nominee, Merrick Garland, who is now the U.S. attorney general.
Biden has 18 other judicial nominees awaiting Senate action. One of them, Regina Rodriguez, a nominee to a U.S. district court in Colorado, is expected to be confirmed later on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, there are 80 vacancies on U.S. district and appeals courts.
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