The Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote Thursday, recommended seating a Michigan judge who was nominated 2 1/2 years ago for a federal appeals court.

The 10-9 vote by the majority GOP sends the nomination of Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Henry Saad (search) to the full Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.

Democrats could threaten to filibuster the nomination, as they have done to stall or block votes on six of President Bush's judicial nominations.

Saad was nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search), which hears cases from federal district courts in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Traditionally, each state has supplied four judges to the 16-member court, but owing to a political dispute going back to the Clinton administration, all four of the Michigan seats are empty.

Michigan's two Democratic senators, Carl Levin (search) and Debbie Stabenow (search), have blocked Saad's nomination in part because Republicans would not allow votes on two of President Clinton's nominees for the court.

The committee chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said this month the Michigan senators appeared willing to accept a compromise that would add two judges to the court and fill those openings with the stalled Clinton nominees. Stabenow's office, however, said no agreement had been reached at this point.

Liberal advocacy groups have opposed Saad because of what they say is his conservative judicial record. "Particularly troubling are Saad's decisions in the areas of workers' rights and personal injury," said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice (search).

Saad's nomination could rekindle what has been a long-standing dispute between the Bush administration and Senate Democrats over judicial confirmations.

Last month, the two sides sought to ease that dispute with an agreement: Bush would refrain from making more recess appointments (search) when the Senate is not in session; Democrats agreed to confirm before the July Fourth holiday 25 of the president's less contentious nominees to federal courts.