US Senate confirms first Biden judge to federal bench

Washington, United States: The US Senate confirmed Joe Biden's first judicial nominee onto a federal bench Tuesday, fulfilling the opening step in the president's priority to promote diversity in the nation's courts.

By a bipartisan vote of 66 to 33, Julien Neals, who is African American, was confirmed as the newest judge for the US District of New Jersey.

A second Biden judicial pick, Regina Rodriguez, saw her nomination advance in the Senate Tuesday and was expected to receive a confirmation vote later in the day.

Democrats see the confirmation of Neals as the opening step in Biden's bid to recalibrate the judiciary after four years of his predecessor Donald Trump.

The Republican ex-president left a wide footprint on the courts, winning confirmation of more than 230 judges, three-quarters of whom are men and 85 percent of whom are white, according to the American Constitution Society.

Determined to dilute Trump's influence, Biden acted swiftly in order to fill as many vacancies as possible before next year's midterm elections, when Democrats potentially risk losing control of the Senate.

House Democrat Bill Pascrell hailed Neals confirmation as "historic," adding on Twitter that it marks "an important first step in rebalancing America's federal courts which are packed with rightwing ideologues and political extremists."

Neals, 56, graduated from historically black Morehouse College and earned a law degree from Emory University School of Law. He served as a lawyer in private practice and as county counsel for New Jersey's Bergen County.

He became the face of Washington's partisan gridlock in 2015 when Barack Obama nominated him to the federal bench, only to see Neals languish for more than 670 days due to blocking tactics by Republicans.

The Neals nomination died as the 2015-2016 congressional term came to an end.

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