Three federal appeals court nominees moved closer to confirmation on Thursday, capping a week in which the Senate prioritized getting more judges picked by President Joe Biden on the bench.
The Democratic-led chamber invoked cloture, or voted to end debate, on U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit nominee Beth Robinson, 51-36, and Fourth Circuit nominee Toby Heytens, 51-31. Their confirmation votes will likely take place next week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also advanced Judge Lucy Koh’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit, moving her nomination to the full Senate for consideration.
The actions come at the end of the busiest week yet for Biden’s judicial confirmations. The Senate confirmed one circuit and six district judges this week, including Omar Antonio Williams to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Twenty-six Biden judicial nominees have been confirmed to lifetime appointments.
The votes also teed up an important milestone for Biden. Robinson’s confirmationwould have the effect of “flipping” the New York-based appeals court to a majority of Democratic appointees. She would also be the first openly LGBT woman to be a federal appeals court judge, according to the White House.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-9 in favor of Koh’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Thursday. Koh, who is currently a U.S. District Judge in the Northern District of California, received support from all of the committee’s Democrats and two Republicans: Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
The committee also advanced Jane Beckering, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, and Shalina Kumar, to the Eastern District of Michigan. Each advanced by a vote of 12-9, with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) abstaining.
In supporting Koh’s nomination, Grassley said he wanted to note that he has “reservations about her approach and reasoning in a number of cases.” One example was a case about home worship during the pandemic that was later overturned by the Supreme Court 5-4 in Tandon v. Newsom. Republicans questioned Koh closely about that decision at her confirmation hearing.
Grassley said he planned to “closely look at her record” before floor votes on her nomination.
Committee Chair Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) praised Koh’s qualifications, including her 14 years of experience ahead of the vote Thursday, and pushed back on accusations during her confirmation hearing that she was biased against people of faith. “In short, claims of religious bias are not based on her life experience or her record,” Durbin said.