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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Kagan Joins Supreme Court After 63-37 Vote in Senate - NYTimes.com

Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court justiceImage via Wikipedia
Kagan Joins Supreme Court After 63-37 Vote in Senate - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Elena Kagan to a seat on the Supreme Court on Thursday, giving President Obama his second appointment to the high court in a year, and a political victory as the Senate neared the end of its business for the summer.

Ms. Kagan, a former dean of the Harvard Law School and a legal adviser in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, was approved by a vote of 63 to 37 after hearings and floor debate that showcased competing views of Democrats and Republicans about the court, but exposed no significant stumbling blocks to her confirmation.

She becomes the fourth woman ever named to the court, and will join two other woman currently serving, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Obama administration nominee, who was confirmed almost exactly one year ago.

“Her qualifications, intelligence, temperament and judgment will make her a worthy successor to Justice John Paul Stevens,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said of Ms. Kagan.

Five Republicans joined 56 Democrats and two independents in supporting the nomination; 36 Republicans and one Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, opposed her. In a sign of the import of the moment, senators were asked to record their votes from their desks.

The sharp partisan divide over the nomination illustrated the increasing political polarization of fights over high court nominees, who in years past were backed by both parties in the absence of some disqualifying factor. Ms. Kagan received fewer Republican votes than Justice Sotomayor, who was supported by nine in her 68-31 confirmation on Aug. 6, 2009. Democrats balked at President George W. Bush’s nominee, Samuel A. Alito Jr., with only four endorsing him in a 58 to 42 vote in January 2006.

At age 50, Ms. Kagan could have a long tenure on the court, but her confirmation is not seen as significantly altering the current, closely divided ideological makeup of the court, which is often split 5-4 on major decisions.

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