Patricia Millett was one of three stalled nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, sometimes called the second-most important court in the country. The Washington appeals court hears important consolidated cases and appeals of regulatory agencies, among others.
The nominees were blocked by Republican filibusters until the Democratic majority changed the rules of the Senate to up-or-down votes for presidential nominations, except for U.S. Supreme Court nominations.
Millett was confirmed by a 56-39 vote to a seat that has been vacant since 2005.
Obama issued a statement praising the confirmation, saying 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."
The Los Angeles Times reported the Washington appeals court will have a Democratic-majority for the first time in nearly three decades.
The newspaper said Senate Democrats plan to spend much of the next two weeks, before breaking for the Christmas holiday, clearing a backlog of nominations.
If the two other nominees are confirmed by majority vote, as seems likely, Democrats will outnumber Republicans on the appeals court 7-4. Federal judges serve for life, pending good behavior.
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