This item has been updated.

In another sign that the U.S. Senate is racing the clock to the end of the year and adjusting to life under a new set of rules, senators confirmed one of President Obama's picks to serve on a key federal court, acting in the middle of the night Thursday amid Republican objections to changes in Senate procedural rules.

Shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, the Senate confirmed Cornelia "Nina" Pillard 51 to 44 to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Pillard will be the second of three picks by Obama to join what many legal experts consider the second-most-important federal court in the nation because it handles cases regarding federal regulations.

But three moderate Democratic senators -- Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin III (W. Va.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) -- voted with 41 Republican senators against Pillard amid concerns among conservatives about her views on abortion rights and the Constitution.