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Posted at 05:34 PM ET, 03/12/2012

Senate set for fight on federal judges


Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), photographed in the U.S. Capitol last April. (Brendan Smialowski - Getty Images)
The Senate moved a step closer Monday to final votes on the nominations of 17 individuals to serve as federal judges, a process that could take just a few days or last well into April.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture Monday on 17 nominees to federal judgeships, meaning the Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on whether to proceed to final consideration of their nominations. Fourteen of the 17 nominees were referred to the full Senate unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Reid’s office.

It was not immediately clear how Senate Republicans intend to vote on the issue, but Reid will need at least 60 votes to proceed. GOP opposition to the move could mean up or down votes on each individual nominee that would last through early April, Reid’s office said. A few Republicans, most notably Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), have vowed to slow and delay any effort to confirm Obama administration nominees in protest of the White House’s decision to issue recess appointments during a brief Senate break in January. Lee plans to vote against cloture, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Since the start of his presidency, President Obama has made 119 nominations, with 22 pending before the Senate. There are currently 83 vacancies on the federal bench, but Obama has made nominations to fill just 39 of those positions, according to the Office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Ahead of Reid’s motion for cloture, Republicans asked Reid to permit a vote this week on the bipartisan job creation measure passed last week by the House.

In response, Reid said the Senate would do so “as soon as we can” and would consider a modified version of the bill, meant to make it easier for small businesses to access investment capital.

“I want to get [the jobs bill] done this work period, and in the Senate that time’s pretty fast,” Reid said.

Before moving to judges, the Senate is expected to approve a two-year, $109 billion transportation funding bill Tuesday.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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By  |  05:34 PM ET, 03/12/2012

 
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