Leahy then said he would look to Lee's vote on another judicial nominee from Utah, David Nuffer, to "provide a clue" as to his support for Shelby.
Lee voted against Nuffer's confirmation despite his support for the nominee. He was continuing his lonely protest against three recess appointments by President Barack Obama earlier this year that Lee and other Republicans say ran afoul of the law because the Senate was holding quick meetings to technically stay in session.
Lee introduced Shelby at a Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday as a "preeminently qualified" nominee, and the senator said he fully supports the Utah lawyer and expects Leahy to call for a vote soon.
Leahy's office said the committee would move to a vote on Shelby.
Lee, however, wouldn't say Wednesday how he would vote on Shelby's confirmation. Lee has voted against every executive and judicial nominee so far this year. "I make a practice of not forecasting which way I'm going to vote, so I'm not going to break from that today," Lee said after the hearing.
Shelby, an attorney with the Salt Lake City firm Snow, Christensen & Martineau who previously served in the Utah Army National Guard, said he would decide cases based on a "strict adherence to the law."
"I have a deep love of this country, which is part of what motivated me to join the military in the 1980s when it wasn't popular to do so," Shelby added. "It's the same spirit I bring to this endeavor."