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Kagan Heads Toward the Bench

Confirmation is all but assured, but not before some rousing GOP speeches.


Karen Bleier / AFP-Getty Images

Senate staffers have been excited for weeks to change into their jeans and flip flops—the unofficial uniform of the August recess—save for the one person standing in their way: Elena Kagan.

The Senate opens debate on the high court nominee today with a plan to shuttle her toward the bench with a Thursday vote. Kagan, who passed the Judiciary Committee last month by a vote of 14 to six (Sen. Lindsey Graham was the sole Republican to vote with the panel’s Democrats), is highly unlikely to have any difficulty getting confirmed.

Republicans’ key gripe since Kagan was named by President Obama in April wasn’t that she said anything particularly troubling. To the contrary. The fact that she, simply, said nothing at all was more concerning to the GOP, which feared that Kagan would enjoy a lifetime on the bench without anyone actually knowing her personal politics beforehand. Then came the issue of the non-existent paper trail. "When the president nominated Elena Kagan, I expressed my concern with her lack of experience—not simply a lack of judicial experience but a lack of a robust legal experience," Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the committee’s ranking Republican, had said. Other GOP members called her a judicial activist, questioned her honesty, and criticized—in the words of Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley—her “far left ideological beliefs.”

A good portion of that is no doubt posturing to the folks back home. Graham called out his own party on opposing Kagan for no apparent reason. "I do not agree with her positions, but I believe that the last election has consequences," said Graham. He said he was satisfied with how she answered questions, and that she showed herself to "do a good job."

With Kagan’s confirmation "assured" as The Hill newspaper put it, the question becomes how she’ll help or hurt Democrats this fall. Another legislative victory is welcome news for the White House, but the critique that Kagan is indeed a blank and potentially dangerous slate could make rain for the GOP. And ideally, for them, catch on with valuable independents.

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