The logjam stalling the Senate confirmation of President Joe Biden’s judicial appointees loosened somewhat Thursday when the Judiciary Committee approved seven nominees on a bipartisan basis, though Republicans still maintain the ability to block nominees they don’t support.
The advancement of the nominees comes amid the ongoing absence of California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose vote Democrats need when Judiciary Committee Republicans are united against a nominee. Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to temporarily replace Feinstein on the committee to keep their partisan advantage.
Committee rules allow an absent member to vote by proxy if they are not the determining vote, so Feinstein was able to cast a proxy vote in favor the nominees who already had the bipartisan support that allowed them to move forward in her absence. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, the committee chairman, logged the proxy vote.
But three nominees who were listed on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting and who would have been eligible to be reported out of committee were not brought up for a committee vote – an indication that Feinstein’s absence meant that some Biden nominees would still not move forward.
Biden nominees Michael Delaney, Charnelle Bjelkengren and Marian F. Gaston were not voted on despite being listed on Thursday’s agenda and eligible for a final vote.
Thursday’s vote moves seven nominees to the Senate floor for a final vote: Mónica Ramírez Almadani to be a district judge for the Central District of California; Jeffrey Irvine Cummings to be a district judge for the Northern District of Illinois; Michael Farbiarz, to be a district judge for the District of New Jersey; Wesley L. Hsu, to be a district judge for the Central District of California; LaShonda A. Hunt to be a district judge for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert Kirsch, to be a district judge for the District of New Jersey; and Orelia Eleta Merchant to be a district judge for the Eastern District of New York
At the beginning of Thursday’s committee meeting, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican, said he was going to “do my part” to “keep the committee moving forward.”
Senate Republicans earlier this week blocked a floor resolution that would have allowed Feinstein to be temporarily replaced on the committee. The 89-year-old has been away from Washington since early March, recovering from shingles. She has also been under pressure from some liberal quarters to resign from the Senate entirely.
When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on the floor earlier this week that Republicans would not help Democrats temporarily replace Feinstein on the committee, he said that many Biden nominees would get bipartisan support, but Republicans would oppose those they viewed as unqualified or too extreme.
“The administration does not face any obstacle to moving nominees who are remotely qualified for the job. People who are mainstream and qualified have a path forward. And yet some of the same far left voices who attack Sen. Feinstein in the past are now suggesting that the Senate move her off the Judiciary Committee indefinitely,” McConnell said. “The stated reason, the supposed emergency, is that Democrats are aren’t able to push through a small fraction of their nominees who are so extreme and so unqualified that they cannot win a single Republican vote in committee.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.