Despite political gridlock that has stalled federal judge confirmations this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he has no objection to allowing a Senate vote on five nominees early in 2016.
As a result, State Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright, is expected to become the first female African-American federal district judge in Minnesota.
“This is more than anything the pivotal moment,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who, along with fellow Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, recommended Wright. “All expectations are that she will pass.”
On the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell received unanimous consent to proceed without intervening action or debate for Wright and four other judicial nominees, including two in Iowa.
None of the nominees is considered controversial.
Klobuchar and Franken both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Wright won the panel’s approval on Sept. 17 during a voice vote with no dissent. She faces no discernible Republican opposition and has garnered “communitywide respect” from both sides of the aisle, Klobuchar said.
Wright’s Republican supporters include former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told the Star Tribune in August: “You have had several Republicans from Minnesota call me in support of her nomination.”
Wright is a rising judicial star nationally and is believed to be on President Obama’s radar.
She was a year behind First Lady Michelle Obama at Harvard University Law School, graduating in 1989, and serves on several prestigious boards in Minnesota.
She is the only jurist in Minnesota history to serve as a state district court judge, appellate court judge and state Supreme Court justice.
Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Wright to the state’s high court, where she has served since September 2012.
If approved, Wright would replace former Chief Federal Judge Michael Davis, who became a senior judge on Aug. 1.
To date, Davis is the only black person who has been a federal judge in the state.
Staff writer Randy Furst contributed to this report.