Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) this evening began the procedural steps needed to set up the vote. Pillard is expected to win confirmation, but Senate rules require up to 30-hour waiting period before the confirmation vote.
Pillard's confirmation vote is moving ahead just hours after the Senate approved the nomination of Patricia Millett for the D.C. Circuit.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement tonight that Pillard has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court and briefed dozens more before the Supreme Court and other Federal appellate courts.
Leahy said that Pillard would become the fifth active female judge currently serving on the D.C. Circuit, and "break yet another barrier and move in the historic direction of having our federal appellate courts more accurately reflect the gender balance of the country."
"Never before have five women jurists actively served on this court at one time," Leahy said. "I look forward to that moment and to further increasing the diversity of our federal bench."
The court, whose regulatory decisions often carry national sweep, for months has been at the center of a political fight on Capitol Hill over the makeup of the 11-member bench.
President Barack Obama has placed one other lawyer on the D.C. Circuit—former O'Melveny & Myers partner Sri Srinivasan, who recently served as a top lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice's solicitor general's office.
Votes for the other pending nominee—U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins in Washington—has not been set. Reid has said he will push for a number of nominations before the end of the year.
Millett joins the bench from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, where she's the co-leader of the U.S. Supreme Court and appellate practice.