(Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Elizabeth Prelogar to serve as U.S. solicitor general, approving President Joe Biden’s pick to be his chief advocate before the U.S. Supreme Court just days before it hears two major abortion and gun rights cases.
The Senate voted 53-36 to approve Prelogar, a former member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team who then served as acting solicitor general from the time of Biden’s inauguration in January until her nomination in August.
Due to a legal quirk, Prelogar was required to step down from that acting position while her nomination was pending and has been working since then in the U.S. Justice Department’s office of legal counsel.
Her confirmation comes ahead of the conservative-dominated Supreme Court on Monday hearing a challenge to a Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortions and a closely-watched gun rights case on Wednesday.
During a September hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans pressed Prelogar on how the solicitor general’s office under Biden reversed the government’s position in several cases from former President Donald Trump’s era.
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the panel’s ranking Republican, cited those “flip flops” earlier this month in saying he opposed her nomination.
The Harvard Law School graduate clerked for liberal Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020, and Elena Kagan and later served as an assistant to the solicitor general from 2014 to 2019.
A former student of Russian who held a Fulbright fellowship in St. Petersburg, Prelogar while at the Justice Department also worked as an assistant special counsel to Mueller, who led the probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
She briefly returned to private practice and joined the law firm Cooley in January 2020 before returning to the Justice Department following Biden’s election.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Marguerita Choy)