August 6, 2010 — Elena Kagan -- who made history as the first female solicitor general and the first female dean of Harvard Law School -- received Senate confirmation Thursday to become the third woman on the current Supreme Court and the fourth female justice in U.S. history, USA Today reports. Five Republican senators crossed party lines to support Kagan, who won confirmation on a 63-37 vote.
Through his two Supreme Court nominations, President Obama -- who last year selected Justice Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the court -- has doubled the number of women ever to serve on the court and ensured that, for the first time in history, one-third of the justices on a single court will be women. Kagan will serve alongside Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female justice in history (Kiely, USA Today, 8/6).
Obama called Kagan's confirmation "a sign of progress that I relish, not just as a father who wants limitless possibilities for my two daughters, but as an American proud that our Supreme Court will be more inclusive, more representative and more reflective of us as a people than ever before" (Hulse, New York Times, 8/5).
Kagan will join Obama at the White House Friday for a ceremony celebrating her confirmation. On Saturday, Chief Justice John Roberts will swear her in as the nation's 112th justice, although Kagan will not formally be installed as a justice until the court starts its new term on Oct. 1 (Hirschfeld Davis, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/6). Because of her role as solicitor general in the Obama administration, Kagan already has identified 11 cases on the court's docket from which she will recuse herself (New York Times, 8/5).
Kagan's confirmation is not expected to alter the court's ideological balance because she will replace Justice John Paul Stevens, a liberal. Kagan's supporters hope that she will be able to build strong bonds with Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing vote on a court with four solid conservatives and four solid liberals, according to the Washington Post. It will be "intriguing" to watch Kagan's relationship with Roberts develop because Kagan, age 50, and Roberts, age 55, are the two youngest members of the court and likely will serve together for decades, the Post reports (Barnes/Kane, Washington Post, 8/6).
Bond, Brown Oppose Kagan
Republican Sens. Christopher Bond (Mo.) and Scott Brown (Mass.) -- who were considered potential Republican supporters of Kagan -- announced Thursday that they would vote against her confirmation. Brown cited Kagan's lack of judicial experience as a reason for his opposition.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted against Kagan, becoming the first Democrat to oppose a Democratic president's nominee since 1968. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Richard Lugar (Ind.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) crossed party lines to support Kagan (Stern, CQ Today, 8/5).
Throughout her confirmation process, Kagan dodged some of the most intense scrutiny cast on previous nominees, as public and political attention focused on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the war in Afghanistan and other issues, the Post reports (Washington Post, 8/6). Kagan's critics largely focused on her of lack of experience as a judge and accused her of holding liberal views on abortion rights and gun control (USA Today, 8/6).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership