This vote was on confirming Elena Kagan to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Kagan, the first female dean of Harvard Law School, is the fourth woman to sit on the highest U.S. court.
Though she garnered less Republican support than the prior Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, Kagan’s nomination was never in serious jeopardy and most expected her to be confirmed from the start. Republicans did mount an opposition to her nomination but it was restrained, in part because the justice she replaced was liberal John Paul Stevens. This means her nomination won’t alter the court’s ideological makeup.
Republicans’ opposition primarily centered on what senators described as her bent for political advocacy, as well as her lack of trial experience.
“The Court is not a place to create laws, and I was not convinced that Ms. Kagan understands this fundamental premise. Additionally, her long career as a political adviser and academic insufficiently prepares her for a lifetime appointment to the country's highest Court,” said Mike Johanns, R-Neb. “For example, prior to her position as Solicitor General, Ms. Kagan had never taken a case to trial. I find that remarkable. Since her time as Solicitor General, Ms. Kagan has only argued six cases before the Supreme Court.”
Democrats highlighted her real-world experience and reputation as a peacemaker.
“About about practical experience, she has it in very real and tangible ways. She is an accomplished lawyer, first female dean of the Harvard Law School, a public servant who worked in all three branches of government,” said Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Some of my colleagues have belittled General Kagan's experience as better suited to the backwaters of academia than a seat on the highest Court. I think this is wishful thinking on their part, perhaps because they know her real world experience will bring the Court back to the center. And, in fact, it is clear that her experience at Harvard Law School demonstrates, rather than undermines, her qualifications. Unlike every other current Justice on the Supreme Court, General Kagan ran a business. She understands much about how the real world functions that many of our current Justices simply do not.”
By a vote of 63-37, the Senate confirmed Kagan. All but one Democrat present voted for her nomination. Of Republicans present, five voted for her nomination and 36 voted against. The end result is that Kagan was confirmed to the post of U.S. Supreme Court justice.