Thursday: Kagan Hearings Come to a Close; BP Exec to Answer Your Questions

BY Tom LeGro  July 1, 2010 at 9:15 AM EDT

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan speaks with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., before leaving Wednesday’s confirmation hearing. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Elena Kagan is on her way to confirmation as Supreme Court justice, with the questioning phase over and little Republican interest in a filibuster attempt. Though hearings will not wrap until late Thursday with testimony from outside witnesses, she will likely succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens and become the fourth female justice in the Supreme Court’s history. It also would mark the first time that three of the court’s nine justices are women.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will next set a confirmation vote for Kagan. Democrats hold a 12-7 advantage over Republicans on the committee.

The full Senate, where Democrats control 58 votes to the GOP’s 41, is likely to confirm Kagan before leaving for the August recess.

Attention now turns to the vote tally: Who will vote for or against the solicitor general.

Slate is running a poll to predict the vote outcome:

“[T]hese hearings are as much about politics–more, probably!–as about policy….The consensus seems to be that she worked hard to strike a balance between liberal and less-liberal forces in the administration.”

The Wall Street Journal provides an interactive linked on this page showing how senators have sided in previous confirmation votes.

Politico’s John Gernstein writes:

“Among Judiciary Committee members, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) sounded like a potential ‘yes’ vote for Kagan, while Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was the only Democrat to say publicly that he might oppose her confirmation.”

The Wall Street Journal notes this exchange between Sen. Spector and Kagan:

Mr. Specter was the least happy among Democrats. In one instance, Ms. Kagan declined to address a matter as it related to her job as solicitor general.

‘I don’t want to count my chickens,’ she said. ‘Before I am confirmed, I still am solicitor general.’

‘Ms. Kagan, they’re counting your chickens right now,’ Mr. Specter responded.

Hurricane Alex Disrupts Gulf Oil Cleanup; Ask BP Executive Bob Dudley Your Questions

Even as Hurricane Alex — the first hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season — was downgraded to a tropical storm, its residual effects continued to hamper oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

Alex made landfall in northeastern Mexico Wednesday, avoiding a direct hit on the oil spill area. But even 500 miles away from the storm’s eye, the winds whipped up waves in the Gulf that forced oil skimming ships back to shore and made the Coast Guard delay an effort to set up another oil containment ship.

“Until the weather subsides, all we can do is have everything ready to attack and remove this oil once we have weather that’s more conducive,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft said Wednesday in a press briefing, according to CNN.

Today at 3:30 p.m. ET, you can ask BP executive Bob Dudley your questions about the oil spill, in a live Q&A session moderated by Ray Suarez and produced by the NewsHour, Google and YouTube.

Obama to Make Speech on Immigration

President Barack Obama will make a speech on immigration reform Thursday morning.
Although the president is not expected to announce new proposals or policy changes, he will
push for an immigration overhaul by “explaining why he thinks a comprehensive approach is the only way to fix what he and others say is a system badly in need of repair,” the Associated Press reports.

The overhaul would include new legislation and a push to strengthen the borders. Many have noted that legislation is unlikely this year, but as the Washington Post reports:

“[T]he president has been looking for ways to appear more proactive, rather than reactive, on immigration — a hot-button political issue that is important to Hispanics in the Democratic base, who could play an important part in the outcome of the midterm elections.”

House Cuts $4 Billion in Aid to Afghanistan

The House of Representatives foreign aid appropriations subcommittee voted Wednesday to cut off almost $4 billion in aid to Afghanistan pending an investigation into corruption charges.

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post reported earlier this week that officials in President Hamid Karzai’s government were blocking corruption probes and that large amounts of cash had allegedly been flown out of Kabul international airport in recent years.

Claims for Unemployment Benefits Rise

Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose for the second time in three weeks last week, signaling that layoffs are rising, reports the AP.

The Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for jobless benefits jumped by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 472,000.

On Friday, June’s unemployment figures will be released.