U.S. Senate panel advances Biden solicitor general pick Prelogar

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Elizabeth Prelogar testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 14, 2021. U.S. Senate/Handout via Reuters

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  • Elizabeth Prelogar's nomination moved forward in a 13-9 judiciary committee vote

Oct 7 (Reuters) - Elizabeth Prelogar, President Joe Biden's nominee to serve as U.S. solicitor general, moved a step closer on Thursday to securing U.S. Senate confirmation as the administration's chief advocate before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-9 to advance Prelogar's nomination to the Senate floor. She had served as acting solicitor general from the time of Biden's inauguration in January until her nomination in August.

Due to a quirk in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Prelogar was required to step down from that acting position while her nomination was pending. She has been working since then in the U.S. Justice Department's office of legal counsel.

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During a Sept. 14 committee hearing, Prelogar faced minimal questions from Republicans, who primarily focused on how the solicitor general's office under Biden reversed the government's position in several cases from the Trump era.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the panel's ranking Republican, voted against her on Thursday, citing those "flip flops," as well as stances she had advanced and her work with former Russia special counsel Robert Mueller as evidence of "partisanship."

"I'm concerned she won’t stand up to the politicization of DOJ under the current attorney general," he said.

But U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the committee's Democratic chair, said Prelogar's work had demonstrated she was "above partisan politics."

He noted she had the support of 12 former solicitor generals, including Ted Olson, the Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner who served under President George W. Bush, and Noel Francisco, who served under Trump and is now at Jones Day.

The Harvard Law School graduate earlier in her career worked as a clerk for Attorney General Merrick Garland when he was serving as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Prelogar, 41, later clerked for liberal Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020, and Elena Kagan. She worked as an associate at Hogan Lovells and 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.

Afterward she briefly returned to private practice and joined Cooley in January 2020 as a litigation partner, before returning to the Justice Department following Biden's election.

Related stories:

Biden nominates acting Solicitor General Prelogar to post

Mueller team appellate lawyer Elizabeth Prelogar joins Cooley

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Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.