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Kagan confirmed as 112th justice

Former solicitor general becomes Court’s fourth female justice

In this Associated Press photo, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan testifies June 30 on Capitol Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on her nomination. The Senate confirmed her as the 112th justice on Thursday afternoon. Alex Brandon for The Associated Press/File

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate has confirmed Elena Kagan as the 112th justice and fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

The vote was 63-37 for President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens.

Five Republicans joined all but one Democrat and the Senate’s two independents to support Kagan.

In a rarely practiced ritual reserved for the most historic votes, senators sat at their desks and stood to cast their votes with “ayes” and “nays.”

Kagan isn’t expected to alter the ideological balance of the court, where Justice Stevens was considered a leader of the liberals.

But the two parties clashed over her nomination. Republicans argued Kagan was a political liberal who would be unable to be impartial. Democrats defended her as a highly qualified legal scholar.

She is the first Supreme Court nominee in nearly 40 years with no experience as a judge, and her swearing-in will mark the first time in history that three women will serve on the nine-member court together.

Her lack of judicial experience was the stated reason for one fence-sitting Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., to announce his opposition to her confirmation Thursday, just hours before the vote.

Calling her “brilliant,” Brown — who had been seen as a potential GOP supporter — said she was missing the necessary background to serve as a justice.

“The best umpires, to use the popular analogy, must not only call balls and strikes, but also have spent enough time on the playing field to know the strike zone,” he said.