Comment On The President’s Nomination Of Elena Kagan To Be An Associate Justice of The United States Supreme Court

I congratulate Elena Kagan on her nomination to the Supreme Court.  The President chose from an impressive list of superbly qualified candidates.  He consulted with Senators on both sides of the aisle, and with others.  As a scholar of the Constitution himself, he brought a wealth of knowledge and insight to his selection process.  He wanted to select an outstanding future Justice who is well within the mainstream of legal and constitutional thought, and her recent Senate confirmation to be Solicitor General of the United States would appear to support that.

Just over a year ago, the Senate considered Elena Kagan’s impressive legal credentials when we confirmed her to be the Solicitor General of the United States.  The person filling that vital post is informally referred to as the “tenth Justice,” because the Solicitor General works so closely on the significant cases before the Supreme Court.  Solicitor General Kagan has argued a broad range of issues, including in defense of Congress’ ability to protect children from pedophiles and our ability to fight against those who provide material support to terrorist organizations.    

With this nomination, Elena Kagan follows in the footsteps of her mentor, Thurgood Marshall, who also was nominated to the Supreme Court from the position of Solicitor General.  Ms. Kagan broke the glass ceiling when she was appointed as the first woman to serve as Solicitor General and also previously when she became the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School.  Her historic accomplishments and the way she has conducted herself in these positions has earned her a place at the top of the legal profession. 

Elena Kagan’s nomination will bring to the Supreme Court a diversity of experience missing since Justice O’Connor retired in 2006.  I have urged President Obama to look outside the judicial monastery to identify qualified nominees who will bring a diversity of life experience to the Court.  Elena Kagan is just such a nominee. 

As a young, freshman Senator, I was pleased to support President Ford’s nomination of Justice John Paul Stevens.  In recent years, Justice Stevens has been a stirring voice of dissent in many of the Court’s most overreaching decisions.  From Ledbetter and Gross, to Exxon and, most recently, Citizens United, we have seen the Supreme Court – the final arbiter of the federal judiciary – put aside precedent and congressional intent to elevate the interests of corporations and diminish the interests of hardworking Americans.  These decisions impact every American who deserves equal pay for equal work, or deserves freedom from discriminatory practices long-barred by our laws; or deserves to have his or her voice heard, rather than muffled by the megaphones of big corporations. 

The Senate has adequate time to thoroughly review Ms. Kagan’s impressive qualifications and academic writings, as well as her court filings and oral arguments while she has served the nation as Solicitor General, and consider her nomination this summer.  I will work with Senator Sessions, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to schedule her confirmation hearing promptly.  The Senate acted responsibly to confirm both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sotomayor before the start of the Court’s term in both of those instances.  Applying the same standard to this nomination, the Senate should confirm Ms. Kagan before the August recess. 

Among the most serious constitutional duties entrusted to the Senate is the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices.  Americans are looking to Washington to cast aside the political rancor and partisanship that has fueled so many recent debates.  The decisions made at the nation’s highest court affect the daily lives of all Americans.  Our constituents deserve a civil and thoughtful debate on this nomination, followed by an up-or-down vote. 

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