The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced its first batch of judicial nominees in the more than two months Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been absent.
Committee members passed seven nominees with bipartisan support, while declining to do so for several others who will need the support of Feinstein to proceed. Democrats hold an 11-10 advantage on the panel, but it has been deadlocked at 10-10 while Feinstein has been away from the chamber.
“We wish our colleague, Sen. Feinstein, a speedy recovery and return,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “We hope she’ll be back in the Senate very soon. Today’s agenda includes a number of judicial nominees who have been sitting on the agenda for some time. Some have bipartisan support. There’s nothing to prevent us from calling and voting on these nominees today.”
The panel voted on the district court nominations of Mónica Ramírez Almadani (California), Wesley Hsu (California), Jeffrey Irvine Cummings (Illinois), LaShonda Hunt (Illinois), Michael Farbiarz (New Jersey), Robert Kirsch (New Jersey) and Orelia Eleta Merchant (New York).
The key Republican backing all those nominees was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the committee’s ranking member. He argued that the panel can still continue to work effectively with an evenly-divided number of senators.
“Sometimes we just can’t agree, and that’s just part of life,” Graham said.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) also voted for several nominees.
Headlining those who have still yet to receive committee votes are Michael Delaney to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals and Charnelle Bjelkengren to be a district court judge in Washington.
Delaney’s confirmation is in hot water over his handling of a sexual assault case at a boarding school in New Hampshire. Bjelkengren is the target of GOP opposition after she stumbled over questioning during her confirmation hearing.