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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

DOJ seeks emergency order to temporarily block Texas abortion law

Pro-Abortion rights protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 1 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Department of Justice submitted an emergency motion late Tuesday seeking a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction on Texas' ban on abortions after six weeks.

Why it matters: The action marks an escalation by the Biden administration in its challenge on the constitutionality of the GOP-led state's restrictive new law, after the DOJ filed a lawsuit last week following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, in a 5-4 vote, to allow the ban to remain in place.

Updated 20 mins ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump dogs "dull" DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.

Why it matters: The two are among the most popular Republicans in the country, and as the former president eyes another run in 2024, he's irked by DeSantis' popularity and refusal to rule out running against him.

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