After receiving approval Thursday from the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the pair of nominees to Indiana’s two district courts are now advancing to the floor of Senate, but when they will be called for a confirmation vote is uncertain.
Holly Brady, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, and James Patrick Hanlon, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, were passed by the judiciary committee in opposing fashion. Brady narrowly slipped through on a party-line 11-10 vote, while Hanlon breezed by on a voice vote. Brady and Hanlon were nominated by President Donald Trump in April.
The Senate currently has 45 judiciary nominees including James Sweeney II, the nominee for the Indiana Southern District Court. He has yet to receive a confirmation vote despite being approved by the judiciary committee February 8, 2018.
Now, with Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement that he is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Senate will be focused on confirming his replacement. Whether the upper chamber can consider district and circuit nominees while also wrangling over a Supreme Court nominee is an open question, said Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.
He pointed out that in the past, the Senate has stopped its other work whenever the process to approve a Supreme Court nominee begins. Still, Tobias believes the senators should be able to at least vote on the district court nominees.
The nomination will expire for any judicial nominee who is still waiting for a floor vote when the Senate adjourns at the end of the year. Tobias noted the process to get them back into consideration would be easy. The White House could renominate them, then the judiciary committee would just have to vote again rather than hold another hearing. Once the nominees are approved by the committee, they will return to the Senate, where they start waiting anew for a confirmation vote.