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Senate Judiciary Committee OKs Georgia nominees for federal court

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved six nominees to federal courts in Georgia

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved six nominees to federal courts in Georgia on Thursday, but left a seventh more controversial candidate in limbo.

The "package" of nominees to fill the judgeships, some of which had been vacant for years, had been carefully negotiated by the White House and Georgia’s two Republican senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss.

But one of the nominees, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, a conservative Democrat, hit a roadblock when liberals objected to his record in the state Legislature. Boggs voted to reinstate a version of the Confederate flag as the state flag, opposed same-sex marriage and took positions on abortion that critics say would have limited women's rights.

The Judiciary Committee decided to move ahead with the other judges, who include Julie Carnes and Jill Pryor to sit on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, and four District Court nominees. The six are likely to win approval on the Senate floor.

Boggs is expected to be voted on in committee later. Many Democrats are expected to oppose him, but even if he gets a majority, it is unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) will bring him up for a floor vote.

Also winning approval Thursday, over Republican opposition, was Ronnie White of Missouri. White was nominated to the same Distric Court job by President Clinton in 1997 but was rejected in 1999 by Republicans who characterized him as “pro criminal.”

Six other nominees, including Andre Birotte Jr. to sit on U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, were also advanced to the full Senate.

Republicans have been powerless to stop most Obama nominees who make it through the Judiciary Committee since Democrats changed Senate rules to do away with filibusters on judges. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) still requires approval from home state senators for any nominee, and Republicans have used that power to keep Obama from filling numerous vacancies.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the first openly gay black man, Darrin Gayles of Florida, to serve on a federal District Court, and an openly gay black woman, Staci Yandle, to be a District Court judge in Illinois.

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