Democrats use new power to tilt appeals court - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Democrats use new power to tilt appeals court

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WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- Senate Democrats have approved two nominees from President Barack Obama. They're the first nominations cleared since they weakened Senate filibuster rules.

The Senate voted 56-38 to approve Washington lawyer Patricia Millett's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Both sides saw Millett's appointment as pivotal. It will give Democrats a 5-4 majority on the powerful court, which handles rules on White House actions and appeals on the legality of federal agency rules.

Republicans voted en masse against Millett, despite raising few objections to her credentials. Democrats hope push through two other nominees to the D.C. Circuit before the end of next week as well as Obama's picks to head the Federal Reserve, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The Senate also voted 57-40 on Tuesday to end a Republican filibuster, or delaying tactics, against Rep. Mel Watt.

In May, Obama picked the veteran North Carolina Democrat to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages.

Until now, the nomination had languished because of Republican complaints that Watt is unqualified. Democrats say that is untrue.
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