Washington (CNN) - Senate Democrats are set to hold a vote Tuesday on breaking a GOP filibuster against a district judge first nominated by President Barack Obama for a seat on the federal appeals court eight months ago.
Indiana Judge David Hamilton - Obama's first judicial nominee - was tapped to fill a vacancy on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March.
His nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, but leading Republicans have since prevented a final vote, arguing that Hamilton is too liberal.
Congressional Democrats have expressed growing unease over what they argue is a slow pace of both judicial nominations and confirmations since Obama took office. Obama's high profile nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was successful, but only six of the president's nominees have been approved so far for the federal bench.
Former President George W. Bush, in contrast, filled 28 vacancies on the bench during his first year in office. Twenty-seven of Bill Clinton's judicial nominees were approved during his first year in 1993; Ronald Reagan placed 42 judges on the federal bench back in 1981.
Senate Democrats have accused their Republican counterparts of obstructionism. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, recently called the slow pace of confirmations "outrageous."
There are currently 99 vacancies on the federal bench.
Republicans, for their part, have argued that they are exercising a legitimate oversight and confirmation function.
"I think (Judge Hamilton) is clearly a liberal activist," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
"We do have a responsibility to analyze and scrutinize these nominations."
GOP strategist Ron Bonjean defended the GOP's use of the filibuster, which forces the majority to find 60 votes to pass a measure in the 100-member chamber.
"Senate Democrats did it too when they were in the minority," he told CNN. It's "just a tool that the minority uses to get more of what they want because they don't control the agenda and it's very hard to be heard."
Some Democrats are also increasingly critical of what they see as the slow pace of judicial nominations coming from the White House. The president has sent 27 nominees to the Senate so far, compared to George W. Bush's 64 by this point in the former president's first term.
"The president has been more deliberative in sending forward nominations," noted Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland. But, he acknowledged, "we would be well ahead of schedule ... if the Senate would have confirmed those approved" on the committee level.
Democrats note that the White House has been extremely cautious in vetting potential nominees in the wake of what critics called a botched nomination process for several potential administration officials.
Two high-ranking nominees for administration positions withdrew from consideration earlier this year after it was revealed that they had failed to pay certain taxes.