As expected, Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to replace retired Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee today. The final vote was 13-6 with all Democrats on the Committee voting to support her nomination. Only Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) broke ranks and voted to support her nomination. The nomination now goes to the full Senate where her confirmation seems all but assured. The Senate vote is expected to come sometime in early August.
If General Kagan is confirmed the nine-member court will have four Democratic appointees for the first time since 1971. General Kagan will also be a part of judicial history when, for the first time ever, three of the justices will be women. Considering the fact that over half of the legal profession is comprised of women this is an accomplishment that still speaks loudly to gaping gender disparities as it does towards gender parity.
The outstanding issue, or at least the one that Republicans have politicized the most, seems to be whether or not General Kagan would recuse herself from any challenges to the administration’s health care overhaul. Republicans tried, and failed, to get assurances from Kagan that she would step aside should those cases come before the court, responding only that she would recuse herself from those cases that she worked on during her time at the Justice Department. Kagan’s response was a reasonable given that is the ethical standard governing most recusals. But expect Republicans to make more noise on this issue given that lawyers for 20 states have sued over the law, challenging Congressional authority to require Americans have health insurance or to require states to subsidize more low-income residents, and there’s a good chance that at least one of those cases lands before the Supreme Court in the years to come.
photo courtesy of Harvard Law Record via Flickr