The Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 14 approved Caitlin Halligan, the general counsel to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, to fill one of four vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The action came on a 10-7 party-line vote. Halligan still needs a confirmation vote from the full Senate, something Republicans have blocked before.

Republicans have used Senate recess rules to repeatedly return her nomination to the White House in the past two years. Republicans did not comment during the vote, but she has faced opposition from gun rights advocates in the past because as New York state’s solicitor general she sued gun manufacturers as public nuisances. Senator Charles Grassley, D-Iowa, also has questioned whether the D.C. Circuit needs additional judges.

After the vote, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Halligan and other judicial nominees backed by the committee "deserve immediate consideration" by the full Senate. In particular, he said, "Ms. Halligan has the experience, integrity, and judgment to serve with distinction on this court, which now stands more than a third vacant. Her broad bipartisan support from the legal and law enforcement communities should lead to swift confirmation."

The committee also approved by a voice vote the nominations of Pamela Chen for the Eastern District of New York and Katherine Failla and Analisa Torres for the Southern District. Chen would fill the only vacancy in the Eastern District. There currently are six vacancies in the Southern District, with four nominations, including Failla and Torres, pending.