Washington U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s elevation to the Supreme Court appeared virtually assured Wednesday as a majority of senators declared their support for her nomination as the debate over her confirmation entered its second day.
Kagan, 50, was tapped by President Barack Obama in May to replace the retired Justice John Paul Stevens. A floor vote on the nomination is likely today, and Republicans are not expected to attempt a filibuster.
For some senators, however, their decision may have consequences beyond confirming the nation’s 112th justice. Several Democrats casting votes are locked in tight re-election struggles, including Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a moderate from Arkansas who is battling Rep. John Boozman to return to the Senate.
Lincoln’s office said Wednesday the senator will vote to confirm Kagan. But when Lincoln took to the Senate floor in the afternoon, she spoke at length about a child nutrition bill and didn’t mention the nominee at all.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., announced that she too will back Kagan, praising her as a “role model for women entering the legal profession.”
Boxer’s opponent in the Senate race, Republican Carly Fiorina, immediately followed with a statement saying she opposed Kagan’s confirmation. “Her complete lack of judicial experience coupled with a public record that sheds minimal light on how she would execute (her) duties gives me great pause about her qualifications to serve on the highest court in the land,” Fiorina said.
Kagan has never been a judge and has spent much of her career in academia and as a policy adviser in the Clinton administration. Boxer defended her qualifications Wednesday.
Kagan’s resume, Boxer said, “speaks for itself. She’s been in the real world in some of these jobs. And that’s important too. We want to make sure we have justices who understand what life is all about.”
Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader who is facing a challenge from Republican Sharron Angle, also has said he will support Kagan, as will Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who is opposed by businessman Ron Johnson.
The only Democrat who has said he will oppose Kagan is Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, up for re-election in 2012.
Kagan’s nomination has even surfaced as an issue in Florida’s hotly contested Senate race, which does not include an incumbent. Republican Marco Rubio, who is against Kagan’s confirmation, has blasted his rival for the Senate seat, Gov. Charlie Crist, for supporting Kagan. Crist, now running as an independent, opposed the nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor last year while still a Republican.
None of the five Republicans who have said they will vote for Kagan are up for re-election this year: Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Richard Lugar of Indiana.