The Senate confirmed White, 53-44, to a seat in the Eastern District of Missouri after limiting debate earlier in the day with 54 affirmative votes, short of the 60 that used to be required for cloture before Democrats used the "nuclear option" in 2013 to effectively change the rules.
White's nomination during the Clinton administration eventually fell on a party-line vote in 1999, 45-54. Republicans had the majority in the Senate at that time. Ahead of Wednesday's action, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called the original vote "a grievous error."
"At that time, there was an attack on Ronnie White for being soft on crime. The record as it stands today flies in the face of that assertion," McCaskill said in a floor speech. "I think Ronnie White handled what happened to him with as much character as could possibly be required of any individual, and I look forward today to finally righting the wrong and allowing Ronnie White his well-deserved place on the federal bench."
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights was among the groups lauding the Senate's action to confirm White.
"The smear campaign orchestrated to derail Mr. White's previous nomination was one of the most unscrupulous I’ve seen in my entire career. Then-Senator John Ashcroft used false data and misleading interpretations to baselessly assert that Mr. White was 'soft on crime' even though he had the support of Missouri's leading law enforcement organizations," President and CEO Wade Henderson said in a statement. "Ashcroft's aggressive campaign to derail this nomination was nothing more than a campaign stunt intended to bolster his own re-election chances."