The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the nomination for Solicitor General Elena Kagan to serve on the Supreme Court, voting 13-6 and teeing up a floor fight over President Obama’s second nominee for the high court. Her confirmation would mark the first time in history the court would include three women.
All of the committee’s Democrats voted in favor of Kagan’s nomination. All but one of the committee’s Republicans opposed her. Sen. Lindsey Graham repeated his role from last summer’s Sonia Sotomayor confirmation by being the lone Republican to back the nominee. Graham (R-SC), targeted by the tea party as a potential swing vote, said “There’s plenty of reasons for a conservative to vote no, but there are plenty of reasons for a conservative to vote yes.”Before the vote, senators rattled through their reasons for support and opposition, with no real surprises. But one recurring theme was the lack of substance found within the confirmation hearings process, even though some Democratic senators applauded Kagan for attempting to make the hearings a little better than the “charade” she once derided them as being.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) told his colleagues that while Kagan was “unquestioningly qualified” he found her saying, like other nominees before her, “the bare minimum in order to get confirmed.”
“We still have a long way to go in meeting the high standard to which we should hold Supreme Court nominees,” Kohl said.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) added, “She played the same game of hide the ball as those who came before her.”
Graham said it fell short but understands why Kagan had to be elusive on her positions and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that her elusiveness was part of the situation the Senate had created for itself.
With the exception of Graham, the other Republicans said Kagan seemed to be lacking judicial experience and was too political for serving on the bench. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he was worried Kagan would be a “rubber stamp” for Obama’s agenda.
Her nomination moves to the full Senate, where it’s unclear if the GOP will mount any real opposition or attempt a filibuster. Republicans have been hinting they could consider a filibuster, since both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden supported one when they served in the Senate.
The White House wants Kagan seated before the next session. She replaces retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
The timeline is very similar to last summer when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination on July 28. The full Senate approved Sotomayor for the high court Aug. 6 and she helped choose cases for the upcoming term.
Once Kagan is seated on the bench, rumors will likely begin flying again about whether Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might retire next. Ginsburg, 77, recently lost her husband to cancer. She also has undergone treatment for pancreatic cancer.