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Senate confirms first Muslim American federal judge

Senate confirms first Muslim American federal judge
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Thursday confirmed the first Muslim American to serve as a federal judge in U.S. history. 

Senators voted 81-16 to confirm Zahid N. Quraishi to serve as a district judge for the district court of New Jersey. Thirty two Republicans joined with Democrats to confirm him. 

"Mr. Quraishi will be the first American Muslim in United States history to serve as an Article III federal judge. Third largest religion in the United States; and he’ll become the first to ever serve as an Article III judge," Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of Thursday's vote. 

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Quraishi has served as a U.S. magistrate judge since 2019, and previously worked in the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. attorney's office and served in the military.

"His time in the private sector was cut short by a strange, tragic twist of fate.  His first day of work was September 11, 2001.  The events of that day inspired Judge Quraishi to work in public service.  He was a commissioned officer and was twice deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2006," Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Overnight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US MORE (D-Ill.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said recounting Quraishi's experience. 

Quraishi, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was also the first Asian-American to serve on the federal bench in New Jersey when he was appointed as a magistrate judge. 

“I am so proud and excited that he will become the first ever Muslim American Senate confirmed federal judge in our country’s history. In a bipartisan vote, this is a chance to show our commitment to great people, to a great man. To a person of patriotism and conviction," said Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerTeen who filmed Floyd murder awarded honorary Pulitzer Senate confirms first Muslim American federal judge Police reform negotiations enter crucial stretch MORE (D-N.J.). 

Quraishi is the third judicial nominee that Democrats have confirmed since Biden was sworn into the White House. 

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All three, so far, have been for the district courts but Democrats are poised to confirm their first nominee to the powerful appeals courts next week when they wrap up Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Three Republicans helped advance Jackson's nomination on Thursday over an initial procedural hurdle. 

Democrats are ramping up their work on confirming Biden's picks, after Senate Republicans and then-President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE confirmed more than 230 judicial nominees at a break-neck pace over four years. 

"We estimate in the coming months, we're going to have over 100 vacancies at district and circuit court level that need to be filled. We are committed, as is President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE, to bringing well-qualified, competent, diverse nominees to be considered by the Judiciary Committee," Durbin told reporters earlier this week. 

He added that he encouraged Democrats during the closed-door lunch to put together their state's selection committees, considered a first step to vetting and picking potential judicial nominees. 

Trump's nominees were overwhelmingly white, conservative and young. Democrats are vowing to diversify their court picks, with Schumer saying that they would "restore the balance" of the courts. 

“As the Senator from New York, and as the Majority Leader, I’m intent on restoring balance to a judiciary that has been thrown out of whack by four years of President Trump’s selections,” Schumer said.