Player of the Week: Elena Kagan

Barring something dramatic this week, Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate and replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Since President Barack Obama nominated Kagan on May 10, she has not attracted a lot of headlines. That’s a good thing for the White House and an indication that her confirmation process is off to a smooth start.

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But this week is when it may get interesting.

Monday’s hearing was dominated by opening statements. On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee members will press Kagan on a range of issues, and while much of what she says in response will be rehearsed, there is always some drama in the give-and-take at these hearings.

There were nine Republicans who voted for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor last August. Seven Republicans voted for Kagan when she was confirmed last year as solicitor general.

The GOP lawmakers who backed both Sotomayor and Kagan were Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Richard Lugar (Ind.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). (Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., backed Sotomayor, but did not vote on Kagan.)

In an interview with The Hill last week, Tom Goldstein, the publisher of the highly respected SCOTUS blog, predicted that Kagan will attract less Republican support than Sotomayor.

Goldstein noted that Obama could have selected a more liberal justice, adding that he believes the court will move a bit to the right when she takes over for Stevens.

But before she gets fitted for her robe, Kagan must fend off criticisms in the form of questions.

She will undoubtedly be asked about her decision to restrict military recruiters from the Harvard University campus and her work in the Clinton administration, among other issues.

There will be a lot of tough questions, but in all likelihood, Kagan will be confirmed with 60 to 65 votes.