Senate confirms Verrilli as solicitor general

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate on Monday voted to confirm White House deputy counsel Donald Verrilli to be Solicitor General of the United States.

Verrilli was confirmed by a vote of 72-16.

He will replace Neal Katyal who has been acting solicitor general since May 2010, when President Barack Obama nominated former Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Verrilli joined the Obama administration in February 2009 as associate deputy attorney general, the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice.

Prior to joining the administration, he was a litigator in private practice for more than 20 years and argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court. He also was a clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.

Before the confirmation vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said Verrilli’s extensive experience as an advocate for a variety of clients would serve him well as the top advocate for the United States.

The committee’s senior Republican, Senator Charles Grassley, noted that he would be voting “with little enthusiasm” to confirm Verrilli.

Grassley said he was concerned about whether Verrilli would show independence in the office.

“His testimony at his (confirmation) hearing raised doubts about his ability and commitment to uphold that principle,” Grassley said in a statement. “Mr. Verrilli seemed to buy into the notion that he was still the president’s lawyer.”

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Sandra Maler)