The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Greg Katsas to the D.C. Court of Appeals, considered the most important court in the country for government regulation outside of the Supreme Court.
The vote was 50-48, mostly along party lines. However, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted for Katsas' nomination, while Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana voted no. Kennedy had voted to advance the pick out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Katsas attracted criticism from Democrats because of his work on behalf of President Trump. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee's top-ranking Democrat, questioned Katsas' independence because of his work for Trump's transition team and in the White House Counsel's office.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley opposed Feinstein's objection by noting that Katsas was "not responsible for the president's policy decisions."
"Any disagreement with this administration's policies is no basis for voting against Mr. Katsas, who has served his country with distinction for many years," Grassley said this month.
Katsas is a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas both at the high court and at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Katsas will now preside.
Following Katsas' confirmation, 18 more judicial nominees are pending before the full Senate after advancing out of the Judiciary Committee.
Two more federal appeals court nominees, Kyle Duncan for the 5th Circuit and David Stras for the 8th Circuit, are scheduled to receive hearings from the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Both Duncan and Stras' nominations were slowed by senators not returning positive "blue slips" on their nominations.
The Judiciary Committee's blue slip tradition provides a state's senators with an assurance that the governing administration will consult the senators before the president nominates a judge from the senators' state. The state's senators have historically had the opportunity to request a block of the judicial nominee from receiving a committee hearing and vote.
Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana did not return a positive blue slip of Duncan's nomination while remaining neutral on whether to support him, according to Grassley.
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken sought to block Stras' nomination because of Franken's stated concern that the Minnesota Supreme Court justice would move the Midwestern federal appeals court farther to the right.
• This article has been updated to reflect that Kennedy did not return a positive blue slip on Duncan's nomination.