Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras is one step closer to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals after clearing a crucial Senate committee vote on Thursday.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., joined her Republican colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee in voting 13-8 to send Stras' nomination to the full Senate.

"I want to make clear he would not be my first choice for this job," said Klobuchar, one of just two Democrats in favor of Stras in a vote that otherwise broke by party lines. "But morally when I look at this and have to answer the question is he qualified, could he serve on the Eighth Circuit? I have to say yes."

President Donald Trump, who has also listed Stras on a shortlist of U.S. Supreme Court candidates, nominated the jurist last May. The refusal by former Sen. Al Franken to return a customary "blue slip" in support of Stras' nomination left his candidacy in limbo until Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley announced last fall that he would move forward with the nomination over Franken's objections.

In a statement Thursday, Grassley cited "wide bipartisan support from the Minnesota legal community" and endorsements that included liberal professors who have taught alongside Stras. Klobuchar also highlighted Stras' 94 percent rate of siding with the majority in Minnesota Supreme Court cases and his history of joining the more-liberal former Justice Alan Page in a third of Stras' dissents.

"I do not see the kind of hot-button political controversial writings or work that I see in many of these nominations that I have opposed," Klobuchar said.

On Thursday, Klobuchar again said that she still believed that Franken's blue slip should have been honored. She also said Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., who replaced Franken after his resignation earlier this month, met with Stras last week and has not signaled that she wanted to put in her own blue slip for his nomination.