Senate Begins Debate on Kagan Nomination

Posted August 3, 2010 at 10:18am

The Senate on Tuesday morning kicked off floor debate on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to become the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

The debate, which is expected to last most of the week, will have little effect on whether Kagan is confirmed. Five Republicans — Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) — have all vowed to vote in favor of her installment, while only Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) has broken Democratic ranks to vote against Kagan.

But the all-but-certain outcome wasn’t stopping either side from making its case on the floor Tuesday morning.

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) argued in his opening remarks that Kagan is qualified to serve on the high court; he argued that her confirmation hearings demonstrate that she would be an impartial, fair-minded justice.

“We do not need judges or justices to pass a litmus test from the right or the left. We need judges and justices who will respect the laws passed by Congress and appreciate that adherence to precedence is the foundation of public confidence in our courts. We need judges and justices who will fairly apply the law and use common sense; judges and justices who appreciate the proper role of the courts in our democracy,” Leahy said.

“It is a standard I believe Solicitor General Kagan has met. Solicitor General Kagan not only has the necessary qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice but has also demonstrated her respect for the rule of law, her appreciation for the separation of powers and her understanding of the meaning of our Constitution,” he added.

Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (Ala.) used his opening statement to frame the GOP’s case against Kagan, taking her to task on a variety of issues including her judicial philosophy, handling of military recruiters while dean of Harvard Law School, her work as solicitor general and her views on abortion.

“She’s young, but her philosophy is not so recent. It is an old, bankrupt judicial activism, a philosophy the American people correctly reject,” Sessions said, citing her “extensive political activities, her Harvard actions to restrict the military unlawfully, her hostility to Congressional actions regarding terrorism … her efforts to block restriction on partial-birth abortion while in the Clinton administration [and] her Supreme Court arguments last year that Congress can ban pamphlets criticizing politicians.”

“And perhaps most disturbing to me, as someone who spent 15 years in the Department of Justice, her actions as solicitor general of the United States,” Sessions added.

A final floor vote is expected later this week.