Politics & Government

Senate approves Wynn for Fourth Circuit, Diaz still waits

WASHINGTON — After months of languishing on the U.S. Senate calendar, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. of Raleigh was confirmed late Thursday to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, a position for which he was first nominated in 1999.

Wynn, 56, was confirmed as part of a procedural move known as "unanimous consent," in which a senator proposes a motion on the Senate floor. If there is no objection from other senators, the motion passes. Such moves provide little drama on the surface, but are usually the product of intense negotiation between Republican and Democratic leaders.

Left behind, at least for now, was Charlotte Judge Albert Diaz.

Diaz was nominated alongside Wynn last fall by President Barack Obama. Both men had a joint hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee together, and their supporters had hoped their nominations would move forward together in the Senate.

In a flurry of last-minute activity before the Senate heads out of town for its August recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stood up just before 8 p.m. Thursday to offer Wynn's name for confirmation, along with three other judicial nominees from South Carolina and Delaware.

All were approved.

With his confirmation tonight, Wynn will move to fill a vacant seat on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wynn currently serves on the N.C. Court of Appeals. He first was nominated for higher court under President Bill Clinton, but he was blocked by Sen. Jesse Helms. He was nominated again by Obama in November, along with Diaz.

Both Wynn and Diaz were voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this past January, but they have been waiting since then for a full Senate vote, caught up in the partisan dispute over Obama nominees.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, spent much of her first year in office lobbying the administration to expand North Carolina's representation on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Obama was expected to nominate at least one Tar Heel to the court; he nominated two.

Hagan recently spent months pushing for the full Senate vote. Last month she asked unanimous consent for brief debates and votes on the two nominees, but Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected and the request was denied.

Wynn fills a seat on the 4th Circuit bench that has been open since 1994.

It's unclear how soon the other seat will be filled. The Senate did not take up Diaz‚ nomination Thursday, but he is widely regarded as a less-controversial choice than Wynn.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, also supported Wynn‚s and Diaz‚ nominations.

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