Senate confirms Owens to Ninth Circuit

The Senate voted 56-43 Monday to confirm John Owens to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.

Last week, the Senate voted 54-44 to end debate on his nomination. After Democrats used the "nuclear option" last year, only 51 votes are needed to end debate on most nominees instead of 60 votes.

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Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said he opposed Owens’s nomination because he believes someone from his home state should hold that judicial seat. Owens is from California.

“This dispute is not about the qualification of Mr. Owens,” Crapo said. “But I cannot support a process that … leaves Idaho with only one seat on the circuit court of appeals.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said it is important to fill the seat because it has been vacant for more than nine years.

“It is the longest running vacancy in the entire federal judiciary,” Feinstein said. “It makes no sense for this seat on the busiest circuit to remain vacant any longer.”

Feinstein said California has significantly higher caseloads than Idaho and therefore deserves the seat.

Later Monday, the Senate confirmed by voice-vote the nomination of Kelly Welsh to be general counsel for the Department of Commerce, as well as several military nominees.

— This article was updated at 8 p.m.

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