Wednesday: Leahy Hopes to Wrap Up Kagan Hearings; Alex Halts Oil Cleanup

BY Tom LeGro  June 30, 2010 at 9:09 AM EST

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan moves one step closer Wednesday to succeeding Justice John Paul Stevens as day three of her confirmation hearings begin in the morning.

A Republican-led filibuster to block a confirmation vote seems less likely. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told reporters that he wants to finish with Kagan’s testimony Wednesday and conclude Thursday with the testimony of outside witnesses.

Leahy said he doubted there would be a Friday session due to memorial services of the late Sen. Robert Byrd. He also suggested that any unforeseen schedule changes could produce an unusual Saturday session.

Regular NewsHour analyst Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal wrapped up Tuesday’s proceedings here. Coyle also answered questions from viewers and readers about Kagan here.

Politico and NPR offer their takes on day two here and here.

All in all, Kagan’s hearings have been a pretty low key affair.

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz sums it up this way:

A tropical storm in the Gulf was bigger news. David Petraeus’ quickie confirmation was bigger news. Larry King giving up his talk show was bigger news. I knew that Elena Kagan’s first day of Senate questioning was receding on the media radar as I saw less and less of her — except as a visual backdrop– and more and more of John King and Candy Crowley, Bret Baier and Chris Matthews.

But the National Review’s Gary Marx thinks it’s the media fault:

“It seems to me that the White House has successfully convinced [the main stream media] that this nomination has created little traction for Republicans and Kagan opponents — that Kagan has successfully flown under the radar — because the Washington Post hasn’t had a daily item about some Macaca moment.”

As we have all week, the NewsHour will live stream the hearings here.

Hurricane Alex Halts Gulf Oil Skimming

Hurricane Alex is producing rough seas in the Gulf of Mexico, pushing more oil from the massive spill onto beaches and sidelining cleanup vessels, reports the Associated Press.

Waves as high as 6 feet and winds over 25 mph were forecast through Thursday off shore from the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

Meantime, as the oil spill disaster reaches its 72nd day, the New Orleans Times-Picayune has tough criticism for U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s man in charge:

“Allen talks like he understands how crucial skimming vessels are to removing oil from the Gulf of Mexico before it washes ashore. But Adm. Allen … hasn’t backed up those words with action. According to BP’s most recent estimate, 433 vessels are collecting oil from the runaway oil well, but only a third of them are designed specifically for oil skimming.”

Afghan Militants Attack NATO Base

Taliban insurgents set off a car bomb and stormed the entrance to an airport in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday in a failed attempt to enter the air field used by Afghan and NATO forces. Eight insurgents died in the battle.

On Wednesday’s program, we plan to talk with Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On Tuesday, Gen. David Petraeus, the newly appointed U.S. commander in Afghanistan, testified during his confirmation hearing that the Unites States faces a long-term commitment to the war in Afghanistan. Gwen Ifill reports on the general’s endorsement by the Senate Armed Services Committee here.

Obama Shifts Focus to Economy

President Obama travels to Racine, Wis., on Wednesday for a jobs town hall a day after the latest Consumer Confidence Index showed its biggest drop since February and the Dow Jones industrial average closed nearly 270 points down.

On Friday, the Labor Department will release June jobs numbers.