WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve the nominations of two judges for seats on the federal bench in Missouri.
Missouri Supreme Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. and Circuit Court Judge David Gregory Kays now await a vote in the full Senate.
Kays, of Lebanon, would fill a seat on the federal court in Kansas City, while Limbaugh, of Cape Girardeau, would replace a federal judge in St. Louis.
Former governor John Ashcroft appointed Limbaugh in 1992 to the state high court, where he served as chief justice from 2001 to 2003. He was the prosecuting attorney in Cape Girardeau County from 1979 to 1982, and was appointed circuit judge in 1988 and re-elected in 1990.
Limbaugh's father, Stephen Limbaugh Sr., has been a federal judge in St. Louis since 1983 but plans to resign to avoid federal nepotism laws if his son is confirmed.
The committee vote -- unanimous for both nominees -- came just three weeks after the judges' confirmation hearing.
While neither nominee is controversial, there is some uncertainty over whether there is enough time for them to be confirmed in President Bush's final months in office.
It's up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to set a vote on the floor.
Republicans have accused the Democratic leadership of acting too slowly on Bush's judicial picks, but Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the panel has made strides in reducing judicial vacancies around the country.
"While some senators would like to engage in a back and forth about confirming a handful of controversial nominations, I remain committed to making progress where we can before time runs out in this presidential election year," Leahy said.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., praised the committee's swift action. The process for both Missouri nominees has been relatively quick so far since Kays was nominated in November and Limbaugh in December.
"With bipartisan support there is every reason for Judge Kays and Limbaugh to be confirmed quickly by the Senate," Bond said.
Federal judges are appointed by the president, confirmed by the U.S. Senate and serve a lifetime appointment.