Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan wins committee approval

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan won approval on Tuesday of a divided Senate Judiciary Committee, moving her a step closer to becoming President Barack Obama’s second appointee on the high court.

With the support of just one Republican, Lindsey Graham, the Democratic-led panel voted 13-6 to recommend that the full Senate confirm the former Harvard Law school dean to replace retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who had been the court’s leading liberal.

If confirmed, Kagan is not expected to change the ideological balance of the court, which in recent years has often ruled 5-4 with a conservative majority.

The full Senate is expected to confirm Kagan, 50, next month. The former Clinton White House lawyer has served the past year as Obama’s solicitor general, a post that had her represent the U.S. government before the high court.

In breaking ranks with fellow Republicans, Graham said Obama had chosen “someone who is qualified, who has the experience and knowledge to serve on this court, who is in the mainstream of liberal philosophy and understands the difference between being a liberal judge and a politician.”

“It would not have been someone I would have chosen,” said Graham, a conservative. “But the person who did choose, President Obama, I think chose wisely.”

Obama hailed the committee vote as “bipartisan affirmation” of Kagan’s “strong performance” at her confirmation hearing and predicted “she would be a fair and impartial Supreme Court Justice who understands how decisions made by the court affect the lives of everyday Americans.”

Kagan would be Obama’s second life-time appointment to the nine-member court, following Sonia Sotomayor, who was confirmed last year, 68-31.

Republicans have complained Kagan seemed more driven by politics than by the law and that she lacked the experience to serve on the high court, noting she would be the first justice in nearly 40 years who had never been a judge.

Senate Democrats defended Kagan and hailed her as fair-minded, noting that at her confirmation hearing she vowed to rule on cases before the court based on the law, not an ideological agenda. They also noted that she had received the American Bar Association’s top rating for the Supreme Court.

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(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by David Alexander and Mohammad Zargham)

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan wins committee approval