Kagan debate begins

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 3, 2010, 1:52pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Senate floor debate over Elena Kagan's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court began Tuesday morning.

At least five Republicans have indicated they will support her, while only one Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, has expressed his opposition.

The vote is likely to be held Thursday or perhaps Friday -- before senators plan to depart for their August recess.

James Oliphant of the Los Angeles Times wrote Tuesday of the coming days, they are "likely to be filled with partisan attacks on a wide range of issues, offering a preview of this fall's campaigns, when one-third of the Senate and the entire House stands for re-election.

"The coming hours will also see both parties clash over their views of the current state of the Supreme Court, with Democrats arguing that the conservative-leaning body under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts is committed to rolling back social progress, while Republicans will maintain that President Obama, and by implication Kagan, favors a judicial philosophy that advocates a liberal political agenda."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Times on Tuesday that Kagan "is not a judge committed to restraint."

He contends Kagan will be an "activist, liberal, progressive, politically-minded judge who will advance her causes under the guise of judging."

Kagan, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, won approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. The vote was 13-6, with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joining the majority Democrats. Sessions voted "no" on Obama's nominee to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

A 50-year-old New York native, Kagan has served as solicitor general since last year. Stevens retired in June after more than 34 years on the court.

As solicitor general, Kagan represents the government before the Supreme Court. She also served as a lawyer and domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House and for almost six years headed the faculty at Harvard Law School.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced this week it has declined to endorse her. Last year, the Chamber endorsed Obama nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who ultimately was confirmed to the high court.

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform owns Legal Newsline.

Contact writer Jessica Karmasek at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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