WASHINGTON - -It has been nine years since federal District Judge Andre M. Davis of Baltimore was first nominated to fill the so-called Maryland seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
It's been seven months since President Barack Obama renominated Davis for the same position - which has remained vacant because of the political stalemate in Washington since the death of Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. in August 2000.
And it has been more than five months since the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a bipartisan vote, cleared Davis for confirmation by the full Senate. Again it was politics - delaying tactics by Senate Republicans, who are waging a relatively unnoticed, but largely successful, blocking campaign against Obama nominees - that forced Davis to wait some more.
Soon, however, the Baltimore native, having spent his 50s waiting for the promotion to come through, could finally be able to move up.
Senate debate on Davis' nomination is scheduled to begin today, with a confirmation vote expected later in the day. The timing could slip, but not the result: With the solid Democratic majority, his confirmation seems a foregone conclusion when senators finally get to vote.
That would put Davis, 60, on the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit - the highest level other than the Supreme Court. Now that Obama nominees are about to start joining the bench in Richmond, with its reputation as the most conservative of the nation's appellate courts, that court is expected to move toward the left.
There are five vacancies on the 15-judge panel, which hears appeals from cases in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas, and typically has judges from each of those states. Last week, Obama nominated two North Carolina judges to the 4th Circuit.
One was, like Davis, a Bill Clinton nominee who was blocked by Republicans (in this case, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms) at the end of Clinton's presidency. The other would be the first Hispanic to sit on the 4th Circuit.