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Democrats use power to tilt appeals court

WASHINGTON — Majority Democrats in the Senate won approval Tuesday for one of President Barack Obama’s key judicial nominees, the first of his picks to win confirmation since they weakened the chamber’s filibuster rules.

Senators voted 56-38 to approve Washington lawyer Patricia Millett to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the nation’s second most powerful court.

Both sides saw Millett’s appointment as pivotal. It will give Democratic-appointed judges a 5-4 majority over those chosen by Republican presidents for that court, which rules on the legality of White House actions and federal agency regulations.

Obama praised Millett’s confirmation in a statement released by the White House, saying her nearly three dozen arguments before the Supreme Court are the second most ever by a female attorney.

“I’m confident she will serve with distinction on the federal bench,” Obama said.

In Tuesday’s vote, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only Republicans to join Democrats in supporting Millett.