Senate confirms Biden court pick despite Manchin opposition

United States circuit judge nominee Nancy Abudu testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

By Jacqueline Thomsen

(Reuters) -The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed President Joe Biden's nominee to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, overcoming rare Democratic opposition from Senator Joe Manchin.

Nancy Abudu, a lawyer for the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) legal advocacy group, was confirmed on a 49-47 vote. She will be the first Black woman to serve on the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit.

Abudu's nomination drew strong Republican opposition, and she faced a new obstacle on Wednesday night when Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, broke ranks to oppose advancing her nomination.

Manchin on Thursday was the lone Democratic vote against Abudu. Biden's Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.

Abudu was questioned sharply at an April 2022 Senate committee hearing about the SPLC's inclusion of prominent conservative groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom on its well-known annual list of hate groups. Abudu said she was not involved in the creation of the list and that her work focused on racial justice and voting rights.

"With Americans’ faith in our courts at historic lows, now is not the time for Congress to confirm partisan advocates to lifetime appointments — especially to our circuit courts," a spokesperson for Manchin said in a statement.

The 11th Circuit hears federal appeals from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. The court flipped to a majority of Republican-appointed judges under former President Donald Trump, who picked six of the 11 active judges. Abudu will be the court's 12th active judge.

A divided panel on the court last month upheld several Republican-backed voting restrictions in Florida. A district court judge in March 2022 found those same laws discriminated against minority voters.

(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington;Editing by David Bario, Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)