Senate advances judicial nominees

The Senate ended debate on four of President Obama’s judicial nominees Wednesday.

The Senate voted 56-43 to end debate on the nomination of Christopher Reid Cooper to be a U.S. District Judge for D.C.

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After Democrats used the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules, only 51 votes are needed to end debate on these nominees instead of 60 votes.

Debate on M. Douglas Harpool’s nomination to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Missouri ended on a 56-43 vote.

The Senate also voted to end debate on the nominations of Gerald McHugh, Jr. and Edward Smith to be a U.S. District Judges for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania — McHugh advanced on a 56-43 vote and Smith received a 75-23 vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on their nominations nearly two weeks ago. 

All of them are expected to be confirmed later Wednesday afternoon, along with Joseph Westphal to be U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The Senate considered these nominees while waiting for the House to pass a on-year fix to the Medicare sustainability growth rate (SGR). If lawmakers don’t act by March 31, there will be a cut to the Medicare physician reimbursement rate. Medicare physicians will see a 24 percent cut to their payments on April 1.