December 6, 2012 at 11:09 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Senate panel advances lesbian judicial nominee
Pamela Ki Mai Chen, federal judge nominee, lesbian, attorney, New York, Senate Judicial Committee

Pamela Chen‘s nomination was reported to the floor of the Senate on Thursday (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Senate panel approved on Thursday the appointment of lesbian judicial nominee who would be the first out Asian-American judge to be seated on the federal bench.

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out by voice vote the nomination of Pamela Ki Mai Chen, whom President Obama nominated in August for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The panel reported out her nomination in an en banc vote as part of a group of seven nominees.

No discussion on any the nominees took place before the vote. Instead, committee members gave farewells to Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who are retiring from the Senate.

Three other out judicial nominees remain pending before the Senate: Nitza Quiñones Alejandro, who was nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; William Thomas, who was named to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida; and Michael McShane, who was nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.

A total of 20 judicial nominees remain pending before the Senate. If the chamber doesn’t act before the end of this Congress, the nominations will expire and President Obama will have to renominate them after the start of next year.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, praised the panel for advancing the Chen nomination and called for additional action on judicial nominees.

“We welcome the Committee’s bipartisan action and urge the Senate to move forward on the President’s nominations,” Inouye said.

NOTE: This posting has been updated to include a quote from Shin Inouye. Additionally, an earlier version of this posting neglected to identify Michael McShane as among the out judicial nominees awaiting Senate confirmation and incorrectly stated the number of total pending judicial nominations.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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