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WASHINGTON • Stephen Clark, the St. Louis lawyer whose nomination to a federal judgeship for the Eastern District of Missouri has been held up for more than 300 days, is headed for a full confirmation vote on the U.S. Senate floor.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved him, 12-10, on a party-line vote for the second time. His nomination had also been passed through the Judiciary Committee last year, but did not get full Senate consideration — one of scores of nominations held up in partisan fights in Congress.

Clark appears headed toward final confirmation, again largely along party lines, but no vote has yet been scheduled for the full Senate. His likelihood of approval increased in November when Republicans gained two Senate seats and now hold a 53-47 majority.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a new member of the Judiciary Committee, voted for Clark. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a veteran member of the committee, voted no.

Republicans touted Clark as highly qualified, but Democrats said the nominee's past legal work and writings on abortion and gay rights raised questions about his impartiality on the bench. 

He was among dozens of nominees passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, many of them on party-line votes, as Republicans sought to reduce the backlog of nominations that critics say has left about 20 percent of federal judgeships unfilled two years into Donald Trump's presidency. The committee also narrowly voted to send the nomination of Trump's attorney general choice, William Barr, to the full Senate for a vote.

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