The U.S. Senate voted to confirm President Joe Biden’s first judicial nominee, Julien Xavier Neals, to serve on the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, as the Democratic-led senate looks to advance the president’s push to reshape the federal bench.
The final vote was 66-33. A simple majority was needed.
Neals currently serves as County Counsel and Acting County Administrator for Bergen County, New Jersey. He was voted out of committee in a bipartisan 16-6 vote in May, followed by a 66-28 vote on Monday to invoke cloture on his nomination, setting up Tuesday’s vote.
The Newark, New Jersey, native was first nominated to the federal bench in Feb. 2015 by then-President Barack Obama, but his nomination expired on Jan. 3, 2017, ahead of the inauguration of Donald Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed the fact that the Senate will achieve “an important milestone” Tuesday in confirming Biden’s first judicial nominee to the bench.
“We will confirm the first of President Biden’s judicial nominees, the first but certainly not the last, not even close,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor.
The Senate later voted to confirm Denver attorney Regina M. Rodriguez to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The final vote was 72-26.
Like Neals, Rodriguez was also nominated by Obama to serve as a U.S. District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, but her nomination stalled under then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2017.
Biden unveiled his first slate of judicial picks in March, including three Black women chosen for Circuit Court openings.
The group also could produce, if confirmed, the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history, the first AAPI woman to ever serve on the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, and the first woman of color to serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland. Nine of the 11 nominees are women.
“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said at the time. “Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”
The White House said the nominees “reflect the President’s deeply-held conviction that the federal bench should reflect the full diversity of the American people – both in background and in professional experience.” It also noted that none of the previous four presidents had nominated more than two judicial picks at this point of their terms.