WASHINGTON — Democrats on Tuesday crushed a Senate filibuster against a controversial appeals court nominee, demonstrating to Republicans that they cannot stop President Obama from turning the federal judiciary to the left.
The 70-29 vote limited debate over the qualifications of U.S. District Judge David Hamilton of Indiana and assured his elevation to the Chicago-based appeals court. Sixty votes were needed to end the filibuster, but confirmation requires only a simple majority of the 100-member Senate.
Ten Republicans repudiated their own party leaders and voted to limit debate. The Obama administration made a crucial decision from the outset by getting the support of Hamilton's home-state Republican senator, Richard G. Lugar.
The vote underscored that with only 40 senators, Republicans are too outnumbered to prevent Obama from making major inroads into a judiciary that was populated over eight years with conservative judges chosen by President George W. Bush.
Republicans have objected to holding a vote on Hamilton's confirmation since June, when the Judiciary Committee reported his nomination favorably to the full Senate.