Obama nominates Kagan for Supreme Court
President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court this morning, declaring the former Harvard Law School dean "one of the nation's foremost legal minds." She would be the court's youngest justice and give it three female members for the first time. The nomination to replace liberal retiring Justice John Paul Stevens set the stage for a bruising confirmation battle, t h o u g h m a t h e m a t i c a l l y Democrats should be able to prevail in the end. At 50, Kagan, is relatively young for the lifetime post and could help shape the high court's decisions for decades. If confirmed by the Senate, she would become only the fourth female justice in history. Obama cited what he called Kagan's "openness to a broad array of viewpoints" and her "fair mindedness." Standing beside the president in the East Room of the White House, Kagan said she was "honored and humbled by this nomination." "I look forward to working with the Senate in the next stage of this process, and I thank you again, Mr. President, for this honor of a lifetime," she said. Republicans are expected to criticize her for attempting to bar military recruiters from the Harvard Law campus while she was dean. That issue was used against her by critics during her confirmation hearing last year for her current post. With control of 59 votes in the Senate, Democrats should be able to win confirmation. However, if all 41 Republicans vote together, they could delay a vote with a filibuster. Republicans have shown no signs in advance that they would try to prevent a vote on Kagan, but they are certain to grill her in confirmation hearings over her experience, her thin record of legal writings and her decisions at Harvard. The senator who will preside over her confirmation hearing, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said, "The Senate should confirm Ms. Kagan before" Labor Day. "Our constituents deserve a civil and thoughtful debate on this nomination, followed by an up-or-down vote," said the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said his party would make sure there was a "thorough process, not a rush to judgment" on the nomination. "Judges must not be a rubber stamp for any administration. Judges must not walk into court with a preconceived idea of who should win," he said, adding that Republicans would have a vigorous debate on that principle. Obama introduced Kagan as "my friend." "Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost legal minds. She's an acclaimed legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law. She is a former White House aide, with a life-long commitment to public service and a firm grasp of the nexus and boundaries between our three branches of government, Obama said. Kagan served in the Clinton White House. Obama began with high praise for the retiring Stevens, a leader of the court's liberals, calling him "a giant in the law," impartial and having respect for legal precedence. Kagan "embodies the same excellence, independence and passion for the law," Obama said. He noted that neither Kagan's mother nor father "lived to see this day, but I think her mother would relish this moment. I think she would relish, as I do, the prospect of three women taking their seat on the nation's highest court for the first time in history ... a court that would be more inclusive, more representative, more reflective of us as a people than ever before."