Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., shown center, summons GOP senators to a closed-door meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. Sen. McConnell and his Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are optimistic about forging an eleventh-hour bipartisan deal preventing a possible federal default and ending the partial government shutdown after Republican divisions forced GOP leaders to drop efforts to ram their own version through the House. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) / J. Scott Applewhite/AP
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats have approved a key judicial nominee from President Barack Obama, the first nomination cleared since they weakened Senate filibuster rules.
The Senate voted 56-38 to approve Washington lawyer Patricia Millett's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Both sides saw Millett's appointment as pivotal. It will give Democrats a 5-4 majority on the powerful court, which handles rules on White House actions and appeals on the legality of federal agency rules.
Republicans voted en masse against Millett, despite raising few objections to her credentials. Democrats hope push through two other nominees to the D.C. Circuit before the end of next week as well as Obama's picks to head the Federal Reserve, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.