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US Senate Delays Committee Vote on Supreme Court Nominee

U.S. lawmakers on a Senate panel have delayed a key vote on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, approved a request Tuesday by the committee's top Republican to delay by one week the panel's vote on the nomination. Leahy said the vote on whether to recommend Kagan's nomination to the full Senate will now take place next Tuesday, July 20.

Before approving the request, Leahy praised Kagan and appealed to committee members not to needlessly delay the vote. But the panel's top Republican, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said many Republicans have serious questions about Kagan. Sessions said Kagan's statements during three days of hearings show she lacks the experience and intellectual rigor to serve on the nation's highest court.

Kagan is still expected to ultimately win confirmation to the country's highest judicial body.

During the hearings two weeks ago, Sessions asked Kagan about her time as dean of Harvard University's prestigious law school, when she limited military recruiters' access to students on campus. She said the limits were justified under the university's anti-discrimination policy because the military barred service by openly gay people under its "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Sessions said Tuesday that Kagan refused to admit her full role in the matter during her testimony, raising serious concerns. He also said there are questions about Kagan's role as U.S. solicitor general in the recently passed health care reform legislation, which could soon come under review by the Supreme Court.

But Leahy said Tuesday that the nominee expressed solid knowledge of the law during her testimony and that he believes she would apply the law fairly and consider the consequences of the law on the lives of ordinary Americans.

President Barack Obama selected Kagan to replace recently retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who was a leading liberal thinker on the high court for decades. Kagan, a 50-year-old New York native, would be the fourth woman to serve on the country's highest court.

Now that Stevens has retired, the court has four conservatives, three liberals and one justice -- Anthony Kennedy -- who is considered the swing vote, but often votes with the conservatives.

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