Over GOP objections, Senate clears controversial judicial nominee

"Chen appears ready and wiling to adopt and apply the so-called 'empathy standard,'" said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who said he did not believe Chen has enough respect for the rule of law. "It appears he is a member of the camp that believes that being impartial is just an old-fashioned view."

Conservatives' complaints against Chen center around the 15 years he spent working for the American Civil Liberties Union and rulings and statements he made as a magistrate in California. 

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of Chen's most vocal advocates in the Senate, said Republicans had inflated the case against him.

"Its absolutely critical that judges remain impartial," Feinstein said. 

"[Chen] is fair, he is impartial and he is an excellent jurist — and he has been one for 10 years," said Feinstein. "If he ... isn't qualified for the bench, then who is?"

The Senate adjourned at around 6:05 p.m. on Tuesday and is set to return at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.  The next roll-call vote will be held at 3 p.m. on another judicial nominee. 

—This post was updated at 6:10 p.m.

More in Senate

Leahy: Don't stop Obama nomination votes

Read more »