Updated 4:08 p.m.
By Todd Ruger and Zoe Tillman
A Republican senator is blocking a confirmation vote for a District of Columbia Superior Court judicial candidate, a nomination that has been stalled almost a year.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) took the Senate floor last night asking for an up-or-down full Senate vote on Donna Murphy’s nomination, saying there is "no rational reason" to keep delaying a vote. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the nomination on June 29, 2011.
"For that year, this nomination has been stopped from a vote," Lieberman said. "I come to the floor today to say it is time for this to stop."
But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected to a vote, saying Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) "has some concerns about this nomination." That is enough to stop the vote unless Democratic leaders try to force a vote through the cloture procedure.
DeMint’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on whether his concerns were about Murphy’s qualifications or were related to a broader political fight about President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees.
DeMint has been outspoken about Obama’s controversial recess appointments to consumer and labor boards in January, pledging at one point to reject all the president’s judicial nominees as a response, even a district court nominee from his home state.
Murphy isn't Obama's first Superior Court nominee to face a hold from DeMint. DeMint previously delayed a vote on the nomination of Judge Marisa Demeo, who was confirmed in April 2010, almost a year after she was nominated. At the time, DeMint expressed concerns about Demeo's "history of leftist activism."
Lieberman acknowledged a portion of Murphy’s work has brought some criticism. Her work at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division includes investigations of allegations of police misconduct. But he said a committee staff investigation found "no evidence to support the charge that she would be negative to police."
The Senate received letters of support for Murphy from leading police officials. She has worked for the Civil Rights Division since 1990 on a variety of cases, including voting rights, discrimination in credit, housing and public accommodations and the allegations of police misconduct.
Tanya Clay House, public policy director for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said she thought the hold was part of "an effort to quell or to stop the upward mobility of a long-time civil rights attorney in the Department of Justice." Noting the letters of support from law enforcement officials, House said that "there's no reason she shouldn’t move, particularly because support is coming from all over the place."
Murphy was one of three lawyers recommended to the White House by the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission in December 2010 to fill the vacancy left by now-Senior Judge Kaye Christian. President Barack Obama nominated her to the bench in February 2011.
She went before the Senate with two other nominees who have since been confirmed, Superior Court Judges Jennifer Di Toro and Yvonne Williams. All three appeared together before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last June, and Di Toro and Williams were confirmed in August.
The Justice Department declined a request today to speak with Murphy.