The Senate has allowed President Joe Biden to officially begin making his mark on the bench with its confirmation Tuesday of Biden’s first judicial nominee.
The Senate confirmed by a 66-33 vote Julien Xavier Neals, Biden’s pick for the U.S. District Court in New Jersey. The Senate also has plans later Tuesday to move forward with confirmation of Regina M. Rodriguez, who Biden selected for Colorado’s U.S. District Court.
“These are the first of many jurists that the Democratic Senate will consider to restore the balance of the federal judiciary,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Monday.
Both Neals and Rodriguez were initially nominated under the Obama administration, but their nominations were allowed to expire when Republicans had control of the Senate. The nearly two year wait that Neals’ nomination had under Obama before it expired was among longest of any of Obama’s nominees.
Neals and Rodriguez are both people of color, a reflection of Biden’s interest in renewing the Obama-era focus on demographic diversity on the bench.
Their nominations by Biden did however attract some exasperation from the progressive legal groups that have been urging Biden and Senate Democrats to break out of the conventional professional mode for judicial nominees and put forward candidates with backgrounds as public defenders or in civil rights law. Both Neals and Rodriguez come out of a corporate law milieu that is typical for judicial nominees. Rodriguez also worked as a federal prosecutor, a background that is also common on the federal bench.
Biden’s judicial push comes after former President Trump had incredible success in reshaping the federal bench. Senate Democrats have said that confirming Biden’s judges should be a major priority after the COVID-19 relief effort — coupled with the second Trump impeachment and other delays — slowed down the judicial confirmation process at the outset of Biden’s term.