Senate Democrats on Tuesday muscled through the confirmation of a key judicial nominee, in the first such vote since they weakened the chamber's filibuster rules and undermined the power of the minority party.
Senators voted 56-38 to approve Washington lawyer Patricia Millett to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the nation's second most powerful court.
Amid objections from Republicans, the vote now sets the stage for a series of votes on nominees who otherwise could have had a tough time getting confirmed.
Both sides saw Millett's appointment as pivotal. It will give Democratic-appointed judges a 5-4 majority over those chosen by Republican presidents for that court, which rules on the legality of White House actions and federal agency regulations.
"I'm confident she will serve with distinction on the federal bench," President Obama said in a statement.