US Senate puts third woman on Supreme Court

US Senate puts third woman on Supreme Court

The US Senate Thursday approved the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court in a 63-37 vote, a historic move that gives women one-third of the seats on the nine-member court for the first time, dpa reported.

Kagan, 50, is the second woman nominated by US President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate after last year's appointment of Justice Sonia Maria Sotomayor. The third woman is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

In the debate leading up to the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a centre-left Democrat, welcomed the prospect that a "full third of the bench will for the first time be women."

"That's really progress," he said, recounting how difficult it has been for women judges to gain a foothold on the legal career ladder to the rarefied position of Supreme Court justice.

He noted that it took a full 200 years before the country's first female judge, Sandra Day O'Connor, joined the court in 1981. She retired from the court in 2006.

Kagan's approval sailed through with support from a handful of Republicans.

Most of her detractors were Republicans who faulted her lack of experience as a judge, but could find nothing that would derail her nomination during a week of hearings in June.

Kagan has served as the first woman dean of Harvard University Law School, and as Obama's top lawyer as solicitor general, in addition to other private and public positions.

She will replace Justice John Paul Stevens, a liberal vote on the court, who is retiring. But the overall balance on the court still leans to the conservative side.

Supreme Court justices are appointed for life and considered one of the most lasting decisions made by a US president.

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