Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms Biden's first judicial nominee

Xavier Neals sits in front of a microphone
Julien Xavier Neals. Photo: Tom Williams/pool/ AFP via Getty Images

The Senate voted 66-33 on Tuesday to confirm Julien Xavier Neals to be U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey.

Why it matters: Neals is President Biden's first judicial nominee to be confirmed, as Democrats begin a push to "restore the balance" of the courts after the GOP-led Senate confirmed a record number of conservative judges under former President Trump.

  • Later on Tuesday, the Senate voted 72-28 to confirm Regina Rodriguez to serve as a U.S. district court judge in Colorado.
  • Trump's aggressive judicial appointments were his most lasting, substantive legacy, as he appointed more than 200 judges to the federal bench — including three Supreme Court justices — in just one term.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged that Senate Democrats would bring "balance, experience and diversity back to the judiciary" with Biden's nominees.

What they're saying: "I want to convey my sincere gratitude to the Senate for confirming Julien X. Neals as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey and Regina M. Rodriguez as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, both with bipartisan support," Biden said in a statement.

  • "I was honored to include both of them in the very first nominations I made to the Federal Bench, and they embody the professional excellence and devotion to the rule of law and our Constitution that the American people expect of federal judges."
  • "They are both highly qualified, and they represent the diversity that is one of the ultimate strengths of our nation—in all branches of government, including the judiciary."

Background: Neals was previously nominated to serve on the district court by former President Obama in 2015, but his nomination expired after then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to bring it for a vote.

What to watch: There are currently 71 district court vacancies and nine appeals court vacancies, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Liberal activists have pushed for 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer to retire while Democrats still have control of the Senate.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Rodriguez's confirmation and Biden's statement.

Go deeper