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Senators still stalling judge's Circuit nomination

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An Indianapolis judge's potential elevation to the federal appeals bench remains controversial even as the full U.S. Senate inches closer to voting on his nomination in the next week.

As legislators prepared to confirm another federal judge's nomination Monday, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he hopes to have a vote on U.S. Judge David F. Hamilton's move to the 7th Circuit on the morning of Nov. 16. Judge Hamilton currently sits on the Southern District of Indiana's bench as chief judge.

The Republican minority wants 30 hours of debate on the judge's nomination, according to Reid, who said Democratic leaders might be forced to cut debate in order to bring a vote to the full legislative body.

Reid said he hopes to reach an agreement with the Republicans on the $134 million military construction legislation. Those negotiations could impact the discussion on Judge Hamilton's vote, and Reid said it would be a shame to invoke the debate-ending procedural move known as cloture.

But it's important to hold confirmation votes for the judicial vacancies soon, before the Senate turns to the sweeping health-care reform legislation before leaving for its Thanksgiving break the following week, Reid said.

His office confirmed this morning that a cloture motion on Judge Hamilton's nomination would likely be filed today, before senators leave for a three-day Veteran's Day break.

Judge Hamilton has been on the District bench since 1994. If confirmed, he would succeed Circuit Judge Kenneth Ripple, who took senior status in September 2008.

President Barack Obama nominated Judge Hamilton in February - the new president's first judicial pick. Though the judge made it through the Senate Judicial Committee in June, he's faced five months of delay as Republican members used rules to hold up a vote before the full Senate.

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., appeared before the Senate Monday and blasted Republicans for stalling action on Obama's judicial picks, noting that 10 judicial nominees are pending on the calendar and only a few have been confirmed at this point.

"The obstruction and delays in considering President Obama's judicial nominations is especially disappointing given the extensive efforts by President Obama to turn away from the divisive approach taken by the previous administration and to reach out to Senators from both parties as he selects mainstream, well-qualified nominees," Leahy said in a floor statement.

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