Senators voted 56-43 on Thursday to confirm former federal prosecutor Elizabeth Prelogar as the next U.S. solicitor general, the Obama administration’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court.
Prelogar was confirmed to the U.S. District Court in South Carolina in 1991 and served as the state’s solicitor general before taking the top federal job.
Her nomination had been kicked around for several years by Republicans, who objected to both her management style and her description of the military-imprisoned Palestinian journalist Mohammad al-Abed. The Justice Department had defended the prison as an “alternative to imprisonment.” In April, the department announced the now-familiar liberal swing vote to oppose Pres. Barack Obama’s nomination to the appeals court. A month later, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of her nomination.
During her Senate confirmation hearing, Prelogar promised she would take a “tough-minded approach” to appellate court matters in order to make the policy cases the high court hears. She said she would depart from the department’s longstanding policy of not publicly disparaging litigants who come to the solicitor general’s office.
Prelogar, 53, spoke passionately about the crimes of illegal immigration, pledging to “crack down” on companies that hire undocumented workers, and on voting rights. She urged the Senate to take steps to protect voting rights in the face of challenges to those reforms, but said she would refrain from presenting opinions in future cases that could lead to significant Supreme Court reviews.
Prelogar, a Democrat, comes to the high court with a reputation of taking uncompromising positions in public, and strongly defending the Justice Department in Supreme Court fights.
In one 2011 ruling, the Supreme Court took up the right of states, municipalities and counties to offer school vouchers for low-income parents, and issued a narrow ruling that held only that some arguments made by several states supporting the right of public schools to deny the scholarships to the families were legal. The majority gave no indication that school vouchers were necessarily constitutional, and in rebuttal of arguments by the conservative side, Prelogar criticized the justices for “erroneously” interpreting their appellate orders and leaving them without direction in how to develop that interpretation.