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“This is but one application of many of those [Senate] procedures that are designed to give individual senators a lot of power and to thwart the majority from being able to get things through the Senate easily,” he said.

But the specific reasons behind holds on judicial nominations aren’t always clear.

“I’m hard-pressed to figure it out, I really am, unless it’s just [Republicans] want to say no to Obama and gum up the works,” said Russell Wheeler of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution.

Democrats complained during Mr. Obama’s first two years in office that Senate Republicans routinely held up president’s judicial nominations for months or longer, only to vote in favor of the nominees when a vote ultimately was brought to the Senate floor. Democrats said the tactic proved that the holds were placed for reasons that were political rather than ideological.

“It may be on some of these cases be that senators simply take them hostage for leverage on unrelated items,” said Sarah A. Binder of the Brookings Institution. “It’s really hard to see why they’re doing this.”

But, Ms. Binder added, the mission of district courts has evolved over the years, with the courts increasingly hearing more high-profile and business-related cases ending in costly settlements. The result has put district judges under more public — and senatorial — scrutiny.

Judicial analysts say it’s unclear whether the pace of confirmations will continue through the rest of the year and beyond. Senate leaders thus far have scheduled votes only on court nominees who were unanimously approved by the SenateJudiciary Committee, leaving more controversial nominees for later in the year.

“The short answer is that it’s too early to tell,” Mr. Wheeler said. “But the confirmation process may be falling into a pattern similar to that for [George W.] Bush, which is a fairly smooth road for district nominees but not for circuit [court of appeals] nominees.”

“We are seeing more confirmations, but it remains quite slow, especially given the backlog,” added the American Enterprise Institute’s Mr. Ornstein. “It will be tested when any remotely controversial nominees come up.”