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Nation & World

Solicitor General Nominee Elizabeth Prelogar May Be Heading For A Speedy Confirmation

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There's one person in charge of the biggest cases the U.S. government argues in court. That is the solicitor general. President Biden's pick had a relatively easy time answering questions today at her Senate confirmation hearing. And as NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg tells us, she also has an interesting background.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: At 41, Elizabeth Prelogar has been a star in more ways than one. She's clerked for not just one but two Supreme Court justices - Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. She worked in the Solicitor General's Office as a career attorney for six years, was detailed to the Russia investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller and is a former beauty queen. She's been serving as acting solicitor general until August when President Biden officially nominated her for the job.

Because the position has become something of a lightning rod, one might have expected her confirmation hearing to be contentious. But at today's Senate hearing, Republicans focused their fire instead on two appeals court nominees for more than two hours, spending a total of just over 13 minutes on the Prelogar appointment. When he turned to Prelogar, ranking Republican Chuck Grassley quizzed her about the numerous time the Biden administration had changed a position taken by the Trump administration in the Supreme Court. She outlined the process she followed to reach out for views from all parts of the government, including career attorneys.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELIZABETH PRELOGAR: In the vast majority of cases, we stayed the course with our prior position. But in the limited number of cases where I determined it was necessary, those were the factors that I looked at and the process that I ran.

TOTENBERG: Grassley then turned to a different matter - her use of her government phone when she worked on the Mueller investigation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK GRASSLEY: Please explain to me why the cellphone given to you for the duration of the investigation only contained 215 personal photos, and why that should not qualify as withholding evidence?

TOTENBERG: Prelogar said she must have used the wrong phone to snap family photos.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRELOGAR: It must have been the case the kids were doing something cute, so I whipped it out.

TOTENBERG: Bottom line - Elizabeth Prelogar sure looks like she's headed for a speedy and perhaps bipartisan confirmation.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.