U.S. Senate Begins Debate on Kagan's Nomination as Supreme Court Justice

By Laura Litvan -Bloomberg News

The U.S. Senate began debate on Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination, which is headed for confirmation before senators leave town in a few days for a month-long recess.

Kagan, 50, the former dean of Harvard Law School, would be the fourth woman in U.S. history to take a seat on the high court. Democrats control the Senate, 59-41, and five Republicans so far have said they will support her.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said today Kagan is qualified for the high court and has “mainstream views.” Her testimony at her confirmation hearings shows “she will not be the kind of justice who would substitute her personal preferences and overrule congressional efforts designed to protect hardworking Americans,” Leahy said.

Kagan was nominated by President Barack Obama on May 10 to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired after 35 years on the nine-member court. She is the U.S. solicitor general, the government’s top lawyer before the Supreme Court, and worked for four years in PresidentBill Clinton’s White House as a lawyer and policy adviser.

She would likely align as Stevens did with the court’s more liberal members, leaving intact the court’s 5-4 conservative majority on such issues as abortion, gun rights and campaign finance.

Republican Opposition

Republicans opposing her say she is a political activist who lacks experience as a judge. SenatorJeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said today her writings suggest biases that she could bring to the court.

He also criticized her decision at Harvard Law School to bar military recruiters on campus to protest the Pentagon’s policy of banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.

“You should have serious problems with this nomination,” Sessions said. He said Kagan “will seek to advance her positions in the guise of judging.”

Democrats say Kagan has impressive professional credentials and would bring balance to a closely divided court that, under Chief Justice John Roberts, has favored corporate interests over individual rights.

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