Arianna Freeman fell short of Senate confirmation on Tuesday to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the first such setback for a Biden judicial nominee.
Freeman, aiming to become the first Black woman and first woman of color to serve on the Pennsylvania-based federal appeal court, received only 47 favorable votes to 50 against.
It appeared the failure to confirm Freeman was more about absent Democratic senators than opposition to her nomination. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y), who changed his vote to no for procedural reasons, immediately entered a motion to reconsider.
Judicial confirmation votes in the narrowly divided chamber are usually close and sometimes razor thin. But Freeman was the first of President Joe Biden’s judicial selections to not go through on confirmation, Senate Periodical Press Gallery staff said.
Democrats didn’t muster enough of their members to put Freeman over the top with all Republicans present voting against her. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) were absent.
Hassan was in New Hampshire for primary voting and plans to support Freeman when her nomination returns to the floor, said Laura Epstein, a Hassan spokeswoman.
Representatives for Duckworth and Schumer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The White House also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who was at an event at Purdue University in his home state, plans to vote against Freeman, a spokesman said.
If ultimately confirmed, Freeman would be the sixth former public defender appointed by Biden to a circuit court, which is a background this White House has prioritized for judicial picks.
Freeman had been a managing attorney with the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 2016 and has worked in the office in other roles since 2009.
At her confirmation hearing, Freeman faced GOP questions about her defender work and her nomination ultimately deadlocked in the evenly divided committee.
The Senate successfully voted 50-48 to move her nomination from the committee to the floor and invoked cloture, or voted to end debate, 45-44, on Monday in what’s usually considered a test vote for confirmation. Duckworth voted yes.
—With Assistance from Zach C. Cohen