The Senate has scheduled a cloture vote this evening on the nomination of Paul Watford, who was nominated in October to fill an opening on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

There doesn’t seem to be much reporting on how likely the Senate is to get 60 votes for this one. The Judiciary Committee split along partisan lines on his nomination, so while some conservatives have come out in favor of confirming Watford, it’s not clear what will happen.

The Senate has seen some progress at clearing the backlog of judicial nominations, but it’s been very slow and numerous “judicial emergencies” — where empty benches make for justice delayed — still persist. 75 vacancies remain, 14 of which are at the appellate level. About 30 of these vacancies have nominees pending in the Senate.

It’s good to see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bring the Watford nomination to the floor. He should keep forcing votes on these nominations. The worst that happens is that it will be more clear than ever that some Republicans are filibustering every single nomination; in some cases they’ve been able to keep in line enough of their conference to prevent the Senate from moving ahead with confirmation.

The other piece of this is that the Obama administration still needs nominees for more than 40 judicial vacancies. As long as there’s still time to confirm them, the administration should keep filling these slots (they’ve named three new nominees this month and four in April, but they could do much better). It’s true that the party out of power does tend to drag its feet on judicial nominations in presidential years, but it is not true that the entire process shuts down. Or at least that hasn’t been the case in the past.

Harry Reid — and President Obama — should keep the pressure on.

Update (3:19 p.m.): The Senate this afternoon suddenly agreed to skip the cloture vote and go straight to a final confirmation vote. That’s certainly unexpected. If the vote is now just a matter of needing a simple majority, this nomination shouldn’t have any trouble . . . and that also promises more success in the future, unless there’s another shoe to drop. As they say, stay tuned.