Senate to vote on Biden appeals court pick after Manchin opposes

By Jacqueline Thomsen

(Reuters) – The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Thursday on whether to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee to a federal appeals court a day after Senator Joe Manchin became the first one of Biden’s fellow Democrats to vote against one of his judicial picks.

Nancy Abudu – who has worked since 2019 as a lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit legal advocacy group – has drawn strong Republican opposition over her nomination to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals based in Atlanta.

Her confirmation faced a new obstacle on Wednesday night when Manchin, a moderate Democrat, broke ranks to oppose advancing her nomination. The senator’s spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Abudu was questioned sharply at an April 2022 Senate committee hearing about the SPLC’s inclusion of prominent conservative groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom on its well-known annual list of hate groups. Abudu said she was not involved in the creation of that list and that her work focused on racial justice and voting rights.

Her nomination advanced Wednesday on a 50-48 vote after two Republican senators did not participate, teeing it up for final consideration by the full Senate.

The 48 Democrats and three independents who caucus with them give the party control of the Senate. If Manchin again opposes Abudu during the final vote on her confirmation, Vice President Kamala Harris could be called in to break a tie.

Abudu would be Biden’s first judge appointed to the 11th Circuit. That court flipped to a majority of Republican-appointed judges under then-President Donald Trump, who picked six of the 11 active judges. Abudu would be the court’s 12th member.

The 11th Circuit’s jurisdiction includes federal cases challenging voting laws adopted by Republican states after the 2020 election.

A divided panel on the court last month upheld several Republican-backed voting restrictions in Florida. A district court judge in March 2022 found those same laws discriminated against minority voters.

(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Editing by David Bario and Jonathan Oatis)

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