- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Elena Kagan marched toward certain Senate confirmation Wednesday, winning enough declared supporters to become the fourth female justice ever to serve on the Supreme Court over increasingly grave Republican objections.

A parade of GOP senators took to the Senate floor to outline the case against Ms. Kagan even as it became clear that President Obama’s nominee had drawn a majority for confirmation. Republicans portrayed the 50-year-old solicitor general as a partisan figure who would be unable to prevent her liberal leanings from interfering with a justice’s responsibility to rule impartially.

“Put simply, Ms. Kagan is a political activist, not a jurist,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican. “Throughout her confirmation hearings, she failed to explain where her political philosophy ends and her judicial philosophy begins.”

Democrats sang Ms. Kagan’s praises, calling her a glass-ceiling-shattering nominee who would bring to the Supreme Court a fresh perspective, a strong legal mind and a flair for building consensus. She would be the third woman currently on the court.

The former Harvard Law School dean is not expected to alter the ideological balance on the court in succeeding retired Justice John Paul Stevens, regarded as a leader of the court’s liberal wing.

Nearly all Democrats and the Senate’s two independents have said they will support Ms. Kagan’s nomination, and at least five Republicans are crossing party lines to join them.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, said the Senate should put aside partisanship and politics when it comes to judicial nominations. Ms. Kagan “appears to understand and embrace judicial restraint,” she said, and has “the intellect, experience, temperament, integrity and philosophy” to be a good justice.

Still, politics played a role in the debate just months before midterm congressional elections. Republicans and their allied interest groups sought to pressure Democrats from conservative states to buck Mr. Obama and vote “no” on Kagan.

Just one, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, has announced plans to oppose her.

Another centrist Democrat facing a steep re-election challenge this fall, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, fell in line behind Ms. Kagan. Her office and that of Sen. Mark Pryor, also an Arkansas Democrat, announced they would vote “yes.”

That gave Ms. Kagan the assurance of enough supporters to win confirmation.

Republicans painted Ms. Kagan as anti-gun and pro-abortion. They point to her work as a Clinton administration aide to enact gun control measures and narrow a proposed ban on a procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion.

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