Gavel Grab

Kagan Confirmed by 63-37 Senate Vote

The Senate has voted 63 to 37 to confirm Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, handing President Barack Obama his second appointee for the nine-member court.

The vote Thursday for Kagan, a former Harvard Law School dean who has not served as a judge, fell short of the 68 votes cast last summer to elevate then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the high court.

Kagan, with her strong academic credentials and no judicial paper trial, did not draw an all-out confirmation fight, and her successful vote today had been assured. She is expected to take the oath of office soon.

When she takes her seat on the Supreme Court, it will mark the first time in history three female justices have served simultaneously.

Economic news and the Gulf oil spill have preoccupied some elected officials this summer, and the three-day floor debate in the Senate this week over her confirmation to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens did not draw widespread public attention.

In a debate marked by partisanship, Kagan, 50, was criticized by Republicans as a liberal and political activist who would be unable to deliver impartial justice. Democrats, on the other hand, defended Kagan as a legal scholar who could put her intellectual talents to work seeking consensus on a sharply divided court.

According to an Associated Press article, the debate featured dueling visions of the Supreme Court:

“Democrats say Kagan would be a mainstream, moderate counterweight to a conservative majority they say has defied Congress and ignored the Constitution in its rulings on issues such as workplace rights and campaign finance.

“Republicans argue that Obama’s choice of Kagan reflects Democratic attempts to pack the courts with liberals who will mold the law to their agendas.”

Kagan will don a judge’s robes at a time some of the hottest issues dividing the nation may be headed for the court.

A federal judge in Arizona blocked some of the most controversial portions of that state’s new immigration law from taking effect, in response to a legal challenge from the Obama administration (see Gavel Grab). In San Francisco, a federal judge ruled this week that California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional (details in Gavel Grab). In addition, a legal challenge brought by Virginia to part of the new federal health-care law is moving forward in a federal courthouse.

Among those voting “no” on Kagan’s confirmation was Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts and one of her home-state senators. “I believe nominees to the Supreme Court should have previously served on the bench,” he was quoted as saying by USA Today. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted “no.”

Five Republicans voted “yes,” compared to nine who voted in favor of Sotomayor’s confirmation.

Kagan will be the 112th Supreme Court justice to serve and the fourth woman.

You can learn more about Kagan from Gavel Grab and from the JAS Replacing Justice Stevens page.

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    […] 63-37 vote for her confirmation (see Gavel Grab) fell largely along partisan lines, as had the debate preceding […]

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