The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, whose membership is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, recorded a tie vote on Thursday over advancing the nomination of Charlotte N. Sweeney to be a federal trial court judge for Colorado.
Although the committee has deadlocked previously on judicial nominations, it is highly unusual for a district court nominee to not receive a favorable recommendation. All Republican members voted against Sweeney.
The effect of the tie vote is to slow Sweeney's confirmation. Instead of proceeding to a vote on the Senate floor, the majority leader must file an additional motion on a vote to discharge her nomination from committee.
The Biden administration has 115 current and future judicial vacancies to fill nationwide, with 35 nominees pending. The White House has moved quickly to nominate judges and its selections have included a number of women and people of color. Still, there is a recognition that Democrats could lose control of the Senate after the 2022 election, making it harder for the president's nominations to proceed.
Sweeney is a Denver attorney who handles wage and employment discrimination cases. If confirmed, she would be the first openly gay federal judge for Colorado and the first openly LGBTQ woman to be a district court judge in the western United States.
"Throughout her career, she’s built a reputation for integrity and respect," said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Judiciary Committee. No other senators commented on her nomination or asked questions during her October confirmation hearing.
President Joe Biden nominated Sweeney to Colorado's seven-member federal trial court to succeed R. Brooke Jackson, an Obama administration appointee who took a form of retirement known as senior status in September. She is Biden's third judicial nominee for Colorado this year and had the backing of both of the state's senators.
The committee on Thursday also recorded a tie vote on the nomination of Holly A. Thomas, a California state judge and a Black woman, for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco.