WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Senate affirmed the Obama administration's appointment of David Frank Hamilton to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday. The 59-39 vote came after a Republican-led five-month filibuster was broken. The minority legislators tarred Hamilton as a liberal activist, citing his rulings on abortion and religion.
In a showdown between the two leading senators on the Senate Judicial Committee before a final vote was taken, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions said in a floor speech that Hamilton has shown a willfulness to override the law through his controversial rulings.
Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy from Vermont responded to the criticisms in his floor speech. He said critics have "distorted" the judge's rulings and argued that critics who say Hamilton should have decided otherwise in the cases would have been asking him to ignore the law.
As a district court judge in the Southern District of Indiana, Hamilton had ruled that abortion clinics should not be required to inform women who seek the procedure of alternatives, and in a separate case, he decided that the Indiana Legislature could not begin its sessions with Christian prayers.
The filibuster was overcome by a 70 to 29 vote, with the help of 10 Republicans. Once the nomination was allowed onto the floor - a move that requires 60 votes - Hamilton's nomination was approved in a 59 to 39 vote. Only 51 votes were needed for the final confirmation.
Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, who represents Hamilton's state of Indiana, was the only Republican to vote in favor of the judge.
Republican opposition to Hamilton's nomination has been strong since the beginning, when Republican members of the Judiciary Committee boycotted one of his confirmation hearings in April.
While Hamilton was President Obama's first federal judicial nominee eight months ago, the delay makes him the eighth to be confirmed, and the third appellate nominee to be approved.
André Maurice Davis was confirmed to sit on the 4th Circuit in a 72-16 vote earlier this month, after a five-month delay. Gerard Lynch was confirmed to the 2nd Circuit in a 94 to 3 vote in September, after a three-month delay.
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