The Senate chipped away at the backlog of pending nominations Thursday by unanimously confirming four district judges, a move that gave Democrats hope that more nominees will be confirmed before the end of the day.
Catherine Eagles of North Carolina, Kimberly Mueller of California, John Gibney Jr. of Virginia and James Kelleher Bredar of Maryland were all approved, and 34 judicial nominations remain pending on the Senate calendar. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been in talks recently over which judicial and executive nominees to clear before the Senate adjourns for the year.
Although most of the pending nominations are considered noncontroversial and were voted out of committee with broad bipartisan support, a few have drawn sharp GOP criticism and are unlikely to win confirmation. Those names include Goodwin Liu, nominated to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and district court nominees Louis Butler, Edward Chen and John McConnell.
Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who regularly blames Republicans for slow-walking the confirmation process, hailed Thursday’s floor action.
“These confirmations will help fill a few of the judicial vacancies around the country, which have reached historically high levels,” he said in a floor statement. “I hope these are the first of many confirmations by the Senate before we adjourn.”
The nominees who were cleared Thursday were also unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee. Three have been pending on the executive calendar since May; Bredar has been pending since June.
Reid issued a plea Thursday for the Senate to confirm James Cole as deputy attorney general before adjourning. Cole’s name has been pending since July, but his nomination has drawn criticism from Republicans who oppose his views on trying terrorism suspects in civilian court. Cole’s nomination is the subject of an anonymous hold, and clearing his name would require a series of time-consuming procedural votes that are unlikely to occur in the waning days of the legislative session.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.