Senate confirms district judges for Montana

The Senate confirmed two Montana judges Thursday as senators continued to debate and vote on several of President Obama’s executive and judicial nominees.

The Senate voted 75-20 to confirm Brian Morris to be a U.S. district judge for the District of Montana. And on a 77-19 vote, the Senate confirmed Susan Watters to serve on the same court.

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Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) praised both nominees ahead of the vote.

“Justice Morris and Judge Watters are the best,” Baucus said. “Their quality of character and breadth of experience are remarkable.”

He added that they were the “brightest legal minds to ever come out of Montana.”

The Senate is working its way through a list of 10 executive and judicial nominees that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on earlier this week.

Republicans have refused to yield back any debate time out of frustration that Democrats unilaterally changed the Senate filibuster rules last month, allowing several of Obama’s nominees that were previously blocked to get up-or-down votes this week.

The rule change means only 51 votes are needed to end a filibuster on nominations below the level of the Supreme Court. Previously, 60 votes were needed.

The Senate has been in session debating nominations since 2 p.m. on Wednesday and is expected to have to work through the weekend if Republicans don’t allow shorter debate times. Republicans have used the time to criticize the rule change and ObamaCare.

After confirming Morris and Watters, the Senate voted 58-39 to end debate on the nomination of Deborah James to be secretary of the Air Force. There will be up to eight hours of debate before she is confirmed.