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Ms. Kagan’s wit, modesty and legal expertise during her three days of testimony last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee drew praise from even opponents.

Backers of Ms. Kagan portrayed the former Harvard Law School dean as an exceptional legal expert with mainstream views who would serve as an impartial judge.

Mr. Obama praised the Senate’s action, saying that their vote “wasn’t just an affirmation of Elena’s intellect and accomplishments - it was also an affirmation of her character and her temperament.”

“Because of her intellect, integrity, her reason, restraint and respect for the rule of law, her unimpeachable character and unwavering fidelity to our Constitution, I’m proud to cast my vote for Elena Kagan,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

Many Republicans accused Ms. Kagan of holding weak views of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

“As a top aide to President Clinton, she was closely involved in efforts to restrict private gun ownership,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Republicans also criticized Ms. Kagan for limiting campus access to military recruiters while at Harvard because of the Pentagon’s policy against allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

“The use of her authority as dean in that way leads me to believe that she would use her authority as a Supreme Court justice to advance her own policy preferences,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.

Ms. Kagan has said that her handling of military recruiters at Harvard was based on the school’s anti-discrimination policy, not her personal beliefs.

Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, said he opposed Ms. Kagan’s nomination because she “does not believe in constitutional limited government.”

“She does not believe in the original intent of the Constitution but more of President Obama’s belief of a more living Constitution,” he said.

Not since 1972 has the Senate confirmed a Supreme Court nominee without experience as a judge. That year, both William H. Rehnquist and Lewis Powell Jr. joined the court.

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.