Updated 2:20 p.m.
The lame-duck Senate continued to confirm federal judges at its quickest pace of the year, while more judicial nominations stand ready for votes when the Senate returns to Capitol Hill on Thursday.
The Senate confirmed five more district court judges in Pennsylvania, California and Illinois last week, for a total of 13 confirmations so far in December. That makes this month the second most active for filling the federal bench during this session of Congress, only behind the 15 confirmations made in October 2011, according to statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
On Friday, the Senate confirmed Jon Tigar as a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California, as well as two district judges Friday to the Middle District of Pennsylvania – Matthew Brann and Malachy Mannion. Those bench positions had been declared judicial emergencies and had been open for more than two years, prompting Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to write a letter to Senate leadership in September, urging confirmation votes.
The rapid pace has all but eliminated the backlog of judicial nominees only awaiting action by the full Senate. There are now only six district court nominees awaiting votes before the Senate – four of which were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. For months, the backlog became a major point of contention between Democrats, who argued Republicans were needlessly delaying confirmation votes, and Republicans, who said the pace of confirmations was similar to previous presidents.