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Obama to Celebrate Kagan Confirmation

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U.S. President Barack Obama is hosting a reception Friday to mark the confirmation of Elena Kagan as Supreme Court justice, one day before she is to be sworn-in to the lifelong post.

The Senate confirmed the nomination Thursday in a vote of 63 to 37.

Mr. Obama, who nominated Kagan in May to the nation's highest court, said she will make an outstanding justice.  He thanked the Senate for giving her a full and fair hearing.  

Mr. Obama also said it is a sign of progress that for the first time, three of the nine justices serving on the court will be women.

As U.S. Solicitor General, the 50-year-old Kagan represented the U.S. government before the Supreme Court.

Opposition Republicans have criticized her lack of judicial experience, noting that she has never been a judge.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions is a vocal critic of Kagan.  He accuses her of being an activist who will use her position to advance her political agenda.

Kagan is to take the seat of recently retired Justice John Paul Stevens.  She is not expected to change the court's ideological balance, which currently has a five-member, conservative-leaning majority.  The Supreme Court is currently not in session, and its new term begins in October.

During her confirmation hearings, Kagan was criticized for her decision as dean of Harvard Law School to limit U.S. military recruiters' access to students on campus.  She said the limits were justified under the university's anti-discrimination policy because the military bars service by people who are openly gay.

The two women currently on the court are Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.  The first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, retired in 2006.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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