Toledo lawyer Jeffrey Helmick's nomination for U.S. District Court was approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee on an 11-6 vote and heads to the full Senate for a vote. Mr. Helmick would replace Judge James Carr, who has moved to senior status.
Mr. Helmick's was one of four judicial appointments approved by the committee. Three of them passed on 11-6 or 10-6 votes and one, a candidate from Massachusetts, passed on a 17-1 vote.
One Republican, Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, supported the Helmick confirmation. It was unclear why six of the seven Republicans on the panel voted no.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), who nominated Mr. Helmick, said he was pleased the judiciary committee approved the nomination.
"He has a demonstrated commitment to justice, and has widespread support throughout the legal community without regard to political party. I hope that his nomination will be taken up by the full Senate soon so that he can begin serving northwest Ohio," Mr. Brown said.
A University of Richmond law professor who follows the judiciary committee said politics may be in play. Professor Carl Tobias said Republicans might be "dragging their feet" because they think they're going to win the presidency, and any judgeship still vacant if President Obama left office is one the next president can fill.
"There's nothing that they said during the meeting, so it's really hard to know," Mr. Tobias said. "There was no mention of problems or issues or questions about his qualifications or anything of that sort. It's a presidential election year and so the process always slows down."
President Obama nominated Mr. Helmick after he was recommended by Mr. Brown and then-Ohio U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) and by a bipartisan commission.
Mr. Helmick, 51, is a graduate of Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and is a principal in the law firm Gamso, Helmick & Hoolahan in Toledo.