Sen. Lindsey Graham said this morning he will buck the majority of Republican senators to vote for Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Graham (R-SC) announced his intentions before the committee was to approve the nominee and send Kagan’s nomination to the full Senate.
“What’s in Elena Kagan’s heart is that of a good person who adopts a philosophy that I disagree with,” Graham said after other Republicans criticized Kagan, the solicitor general, as lacking judicial experience. “There’s plenty of reasons for a conservative to vote no, but there are plenty of reasons for a conservative to vote yes.”
“She is a loyal American, very patriotic,” Graham said after detailing her record on military issues. He said Kagan was “smart” and “funny” and that shows “you are pretty comfortable with who you are.” He added, “she’s liberal.” Graham also said Miguel Estrada’s letter in support of Kagan hit him “hard” and factored into his decision. During her confirmation hearings, Graham and Kagan discussed Estrada’s legal career and she agreed to write a letter recommending him for the high court. Today, Graham read aloud from Kagan’s letter, which called Estrada a “towering intellect.”He cited Barack Obama’s election in 2008, saying he’s constitutionally bound to support a qualified nominee and “honor elections” even though he would have made a different choice because he and Obama are on opposite political sides. “She’s passed all those tests,” Graham said.
The Republican also cited upcoming elections, even though he’s not up for reelection this fall. “I’m going to vote for her,” Graham said, “and that doesn’t mean I’m pro-choice. I believe the last election had consequences and this president chose someone who is qualified, who has the experience and knowledge to serve on this court, who is in the mainstream of liberal philosophy and understand the difference between being a judge and a politician.”
Graham voted for Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the high court last summer, and operatives believed he was the most likely to do the same this time around. As we reported, tea partiers attempted to persuade Graham that Kagan wasn’t worthy of his support. It’s not a huge shock Graham wouldn’t bend to the tea party pressure since he told the New York Times recently that the movement “will die out.”
Conservative groups and the NRA are using the vote to score Republican senators to see whether they’ll earn endorsements in their reelection attempts.