Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan cleared a big hurdle on her way to confirmation Tuesday as a Senate panel easily approved her nomination, though she did so with the help of just one Republican.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13 to 6 in favor of Ms. Kagan and sent her nomination to the full Senate for a final vote.
Barring an unforeseen turn, her confirmation is expected before the Senate breaks for its August recess, which would make her only the third woman on the current high court and only the fourth woman ever to have the honor.
"Solicitor General Kagan demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the law and fidelity to it," said committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat. "She made clear that she will base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution, not politics or an ideological agenda."
Every Democrat on the panel, as expected, voted for Ms. Kagan, who serves as the Obama administration's solicitor general. But Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also gave her tepid praise before voting with the majority.
"I'm going to vote for her, and that doesn't mean I'm pro-choice. I'm very pro-life," Mr. Graham said. "I'm going to vote for her because I believe the last election had consequences. And this president chose someone who is qualified, who has the experience and knowledge to serve on this court, who's in the mainstream of liberal philosophy and understands the difference between being a liberal judge and a politician."
He added that, "it was not a hard decision for me to make."
Mr. Graham's views were not the consensus of his party colleagues. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the committee's ranking Republican, said he worries that Ms. Kagan would be swayed by her liberal views while making judgments on the nation's highest court.
"Throughout her career, Ms. Kagan has placed her politics above the law," he said. "Americans who are deeply troubled by Washington's growing disregard for the Constitution should also be troubled by this nomination."
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said that Ms. Kagan's judicial philosophy was "intentionally vague and open to multiple interpretations" during her two days of testimony before the committee this month.
"What do we know about this nominee? I submit not much," he said.
But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, disagreed, saying that Ms. Kagan provided "very meaty answers — and a lot of them."
"Some of my colleagues across the table are citing General Kagan's failure to directly answer questions as a reason to vote against her. I find that really puzzling, since by almost any standard she was more direct and forthright than [Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.] was at his hearings, and they voted for him," he said.
Ms. Kagan is President Obama's second Supreme Court nominee after Sonia Sotomayor, who was confirmed last year.
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