Kagan gets OK of Judiciary Committee
Vote mostly along party lines puts her closer to supreme Court confirmation
WASHINGTON — Solicitor General Elena Kagan moved one step closer Tuesday to becoming a Supreme Court justice when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-6, almost entirely along party lines, to forward her nomination to the full Senate for consideration.
Just one Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, broke ranks with his party to back Kagan. His speech supporting her led to debate about the Senate’s increasingly partisan approach to judicial confirmations, as he took colleagues — including President Barack Obama when he was a senator — to task for basing their votes on philosophy, rather than quali- fications and character.
In voting no, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, “Kagan’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee did not assure me that she agrees with the traditional understanding of the proper role of a judge.”
Tuesday’s vote was expected. In a statement afterward, Obama called it a “bipartisan affirmation” of Kagan’s “strong performance during her confirmation hearings.” The full Senate is to vote before the August recess.
If she is confirmed as expected, Kagan, 50, a former dean of Harvard Law School and the nation’s first female solicitor general, would be the court’s youngest justice, putting her in a position to influ- ence American jurisprudence for decades to come. She would be only the fourth woman to serve on the court and the only current justice who did not come from the federal appellate bench.
Although Democrats on the Judiciary Committee gave Kagan unanimous approval Tuesday, one, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he was doing so with “grave concerns.” Tuesday’s session was a kind of swan song for Specter, a former Republican who was once chairman of the judiciary panel. After being defeated in a primary election, he is being forced to retire.
Republicans cited many reasons for voting against Kagan: her lack of judicial experience; her decision, while dean at Harvard, to briefly bar military recruiters from the use of law school facilities; and her work as an aide to President Bill Clinton on matters such as gun rights and the procedure known as partial-birth abortion.
Tuesday’s vote, as expected, was mostly along party lines, with Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, left, voting against Elena Kagan, and Democrats like Chairman Patrick Leahy backing her.
Elena Kagan would be 4th female justice in court’s history.