Graham Breaks From GOP to Back Kagan

Posted July 20, 2010 at 10:56am

Sen. Lindsey Graham announced Tuesday morning that he would back Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, saying she is highly qualified to serve on the high court.

In a speech before the Judiciary Committee’s vote on Kagan’s nomination, the South Carolina Republican said that “in my view the Constitution put a requirement on me as a Senator to not replace my judgment” for the president’s, but rather to determine whether Kagan is qualified, intelligent and will not be political on the bench.

“Quite frankly, I think she’s passed all those tests,” Graham said.

“It was not a hard decision for me to make. I thought she did a good job [in her hearings]. She will serve this nation honorably,” he added.

Graham praised Kagan’s time as solicitor general, arguing that, “I think she’s acquitted herself pretty well. … Generally speaking I thought she’d done a good job of representing our country,” particularly on terrorism issues.

Graham said one of the key reasons for his support was the backing that Kagan got from conservatives who have known her for several years, most notably Miguel Estrada, whom President George W. Bush nominated as an appeals court judge.

“I tend to listen to what people who have known the nominee longer than I have say. … Miguel Estrada’s letter just really hit me hard,” Graham said.

Graham again dismissed his GOP’s colleagues’ complaints about Kagan’s decision to limit military recruiters’ access to Harvard Law School during her time as dean over the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“Lawyers challenge the law. She challenged the law. … It was their right to do so within the law, and the big loss was not the military’s loss, it was Harvard’s loss,” Graham said, adding that, “If I believed she had animosity in her heart toward the military, I could easily vote no. I don’t believe that.”

Graham — the only Republican on the committee to back Kagan — is essentially reprising his role from last year’s Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, where he also broke with his GOP colleagues to support President Barack Obama’s nominee.