Senate Confirms Obama's Pick for Solicitor General

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Monday confirmed White House lawyer Donald Verrilli Jr. to succeed Justice Elena Kagan as U.S. solicitor general.

With the 72-16 vote, Verrilli will fill a post that has been vacant since the Senate voted Kagan to her Supreme Court seat last August. The solicitor general represents the executive branch of government before the Supreme Court.

President Obama named him as Kagan's successor last January. A month ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nominee by a 17-1 vote.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Verrilli had an "extensive knowledge of the law and an understanding of the independence required to represent the interest of the government and the American people as the solicitor general."

Verrilli currently serves as a deputy counsel to Obama. Before that he worked at the Justice Department as an associate deputy attorney general.

While his nomination generally went smoothly, he was questioned by several Republicans over his role as a Justice Department lawyer in drawing up new restrictions on invoking the state secrets privilege, which allows the federal government to block lawsuits that might compromise national security secrets.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the lone no vote in the Judiciary Committee, said he was voting against Verrilli because of the Justice Department advocacy of trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts and "the fact that he is another voice in the department for a wrong philosophy."

Verrilli clerked for former Justice William Brennan Jr., and, as a private attorney, argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court and participated in more than 100 cases before the high court.