The Senate voted 56-38 Tuesday to confirm Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court, making her the first nominee of President Obama’s to clear the Senate since Democrats unilaterally changed the rules in a vote last month. Republican Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiBig Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund Overnight Energy: House passes first Interior, EPA spending bill in seven years MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsThe Trail 2016: Words matter Lobbyists bolting Trump convention early GOP sen at convention: I'm not ruling out voting for Clinton MORE (Maine) voted with Democrats.
The rule change means only 51 votes are needed to end a filibuster on nominations below the level of the Supreme Court.
“This was a pure power grab, plain and simple,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellProgressive group changes tone on Kaine Trump hits Kaine on TPP: He supports a 'job killer' Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE (R-Ky.) said ahead of the vote Tuesday. “If the majority party can’t be expected to follow the rules, then there are no rules.”
Republicans have warned that in response, they would seek to use other rules to slow the Senate’s procedure to a crawl.
"I’m pleased that in a bipartisan vote, the Senate has confirmed Patricia Millett to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, filling a vacancy that has been open since 2005," President Obama said in a statement. "Ms. Millett is a leading appellate lawyer who has made 32 arguments before the Supreme Court, the second-most by a female advocate. She has served in the Department of Justice for both Democratic and Republican Presidents. I’m confident she will serve with distinction on the federal bench."
A second nominee is expected to be approved when the Senate considers Rep. Mel Watt’s (D-N.C.) nomination to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
The Senate is expected to vote to end debate on Watt’s nomination later Tuesday. After up to eight hours of debate, the Senate will proceed to his confirmation vote.
The D.C. Circuit is often considered the second most powerful bench in the country because it has jurisdiction over most federal agencies.
The nominations of Millett and two other judges to the court set off the fight between Senate Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans warned that Democrats would regret the “irrevocable” change once they are in the minority.
“Washington Democrats changed our democracy irrevocable,” McConnell said. “And to what end, to pack the courts.”