The Senate on Thursday confirmed Elena Kagan to serve on the Supreme Court, making the former Harvard Law School dean the court’s youngest member and just the fourth woman in history to receive the lifetime appointment.
“The hard right in America, having been unable to change the country … decided the best way to do it was the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “I am hopeful that she can prevent this judicial activism of the right from overwhelming the court.”
Five Republicans followed through on their vows to support Ms. Kagan, 50, who has been serving as the nation’s first female U.S. Solicitor General. She received five fewer votes than President Obama’s only other Supreme Court nominee, Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor.
While Republicans for weeks hammered away at Ms. Kagan’s lack of judicial experience and portrayed her as a liberal ideologue, none tried to block her confirmation vote by way of a filibuster. Ms. Kagan isn’t expected to alter the ideological balance of the court, and her confirmation was never much in doubt.
Sen. Scott Brown, a moderate Massachusetts Republican who many thought was a Kagan supporter, said he opposed her nomination because she lacked judicial experience. Ms. Kagan will be the first justice in nearly 40 years to be confirmed with no experience as a judge.
“Lacking that, I look for many years of practical courtroom experience to compensate for the absence of prior judicial experience,” he said. “In Elena Kagan’s case, she is missing both.”
Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, said it was unfair to dismiss Ms. Kagan because she hasn’t served as a judge.
“You only have one life, and think about what she has done during her life,” Mr. Franken said while ticking off a list of her career accomplishments.
She also served as a legal adviser in the Clinton administration. She will succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who became a leader of the court’s liberal wing during his 35-year tenure. He left the court this year.
Ms. Kagan watched the vote on TV in the conference room at the solicitor general’s office, with her Justice Department colleagues looking on.
She is scheduled to be sworn in Saturday afternoon at the court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
The Republicans who supported Ms. Kagan were: Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.
One Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted no.