Graham Lone Republican Voting ‘Aye’ as Senate Committee Approves Kagan

BY Quinn Bowman  July 20, 2010 at 1:17 PM EDT

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The Senate Judiciary committee voted 13-6 Tuesday to recommend that the full Senate approve Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be the next Supreme Court justice.

The vote was along party lines with one exception — South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham voted for Kagan.

“I’m going to vote for her because I believe the last election had consequences and this president chose someone who is qualified, who has the experience and knowledge to serve on this court,” Graham said. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t a hard decision. I think she did a very good job and she will serve this nation honorably.”

Kagan is expected to be confirmed by the Senate, where newly appointed interim West Virginia Sen. Carte Goodwin gives Democrats a 59 to 41 advantage over Republicans. If confirmed, Kagan would be the fourth female justice ever and the third currently serving.

President Obama released a statement praising the committee’s vote:

Elena Kagan is one of this country’s leading legal minds, and has shown throughout this process that, if confirmed, she would be a fair and impartial Supreme Court Justice who understands how decisions made by the Court affect the lives of everyday Americans. Today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee is a bipartisan affirmation of her strong performance during her confirmation hearings. I want to thank the Judiciary Committee for giving her a thorough, timely and respectful hearing, and I look forward to the full Senate taking up and voting on this nomination before the August recess.

Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl criticized Kagan for not being more open during her confirmation hearings and said he thought Kagan’s personal views on policy issues would have too much influence on her decisions as a judge. He voted against her.

In declaring his support for Kagan, Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter said he wasn’t surprised that the vote was divided along party lines because of the ideological battle between liberal and conservative justices on the Supreme Court.

Specter also criticized Kagan for dodging several questions posed during her confirmation. We examined how open Kagan was during the hearings in this Rundown post.

A Washington Post/ABC poll found that a majority of Americans, 53 percent, support her confirmation.

But how much do Americans really know about the nominee? Another poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News in late June showed that 47 percent didn’t know enough about her to form an opinion.

An online poll from C-SPAN found only 19 percent of respondents could name Kagan as President Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Sixty-seven percent could not name a single case heard by the Supreme Court.