By Susan Crabtree - 07/20/10 10:00 AM EDT
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to approve Elena Kagan’s
confirmation to the Supreme Court on Tuesday over minimal Republican
The only intrigue surrounding the vote is whether Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will break ranks with his six fellow Republicans and vote yes along with all 12 Democrats on the panel.
From the moment Kagan was nominated, court watchers and scholars have predicted no major roadblocks to her confirmation even as Republicans voiced deep concerns about her lack of judicial experience and record of limiting access for military recruiters while dean of Harvard Law School.
A Gallup poll conducted July 8-11 found that just 44 percent of those polled would like to see Kagan confirmed by the Senate, down from 46 percent of those questioned shortly after President Obama announced her nomination.
That’s the lowest amount of support any successful nominee has had before his or her confirmation vote in recent years, according to Gallup.
Sonia Sotomayor, for example, managed to attract 55 percent of those polled, while Samuel Alito garnered 54 percent and John Roberts won the support of 60 percent. Before President George W. Bush withdrew his choice of Harriet Miers, she had just 42 percent support, while Robert Bork, President Reagan’s pick, attracted 38 percent before the Senate voted down his nomination.
Even though Kagan was given high marks for her knowledge of case law as well as her calm and often humorous responses, the tough Republican opposition to her, led by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), may have taken a toll.
“People finding out that she’s never been a judge and all the details about her treatment of military recruiters … that probably hurt her,” said Russell Wheeling, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies the selection of U.S. judges and how courts function.
In a tough election year when the Tea Party’s influence has already contributed to the defeat of veteran Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) in a primary, the strong GOP opposition to Kagan comes as no surprise. Sotomayor was confirmed on a 68-31 margin last year, with nine Republicans voting in favor of her: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kit Bond (Mo.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Richard Lugar (Ind.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio).
Seven Republicans voted in favor of Kagan’s confirmation as solicitor general last year: Tom Coburn (Okla.), Collins, Gregg, Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Lugar and Snowe. (Graham missed the Kagan vote.)
Of those seven, Coburn and Hatch already have announced that they will vote no, and Coburn predicted Kagan would receive only two or three GOP votes.