Updated 12:24 p.m.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved three judicial nominees today on Capitol Hill, among hints that a dispute about President Barack Obama’s controversial recess appointees could stall their confirmations by the full Senate.
Nominees Richard Taranto for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Robin Rosenbaum for the Southern District of Florida were approved with a voice vote, and only one vote against each. The committee also voted 10-6 to approve Gershwin Drain for the Eastern District of Michigan, despite Republicans expressing concerns about his views on gun ownership rights and the death penalty.
The "no" votes on Taranto and Rosenbaum were from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), whose opposition led to a political standoff on judicial nominees last month. Lee has said he will vote against all Obama’s nominees until the president rescinds his recess appointments, which were made during a two-day break in January. Several Republicans and even some Constitutional lawyers have concluded that the time frame Obama used to make the appointments doesn't qualify as an actual recess.
To end that standoff, Senate leaders came to an agreement to give confirmation votes on 12 federal district court judge picks and two circuit court selections before the summer. As part of the deal, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Susie Morgan to the Eastern District of Louisiana by a 96-1 vote, and Miranda Du to the federal bench in Nevada, by a 59-39 vote.
But it's unclear when the Senate will act on other nominees. Taranto and Rosenbaum now join other relatively non-controversial judicial nominees who have been passed through the Judiciary Committee but are still waiting for confirmation votes in the full Senate.
Ranking Minority Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Drain wrote an article about the Second Amendment in which he envisioned a day when the National Rifle Association would lose influence and a person with a gun would be looked on as a coward.
Grassley said Drain also wrote an article calling the death penalty barbaric and said it did not deter crime, although he testified that he has changed his mind since that was published.