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Senate Judiciary Committee Endorses Kagan 13-6

The Senate Judiciary Committee just voted 13-6 to endorse Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s confirmation, sending her on to the full Senate for further consideration.

The vote broke largely on partisan lines — all 12 Democrats on the committee voted for Kagan while six of the seven Republicans voted against her. Only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) broke GOP ranks to vote in her favor.

As Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) spoke about his decision to vote for Kagan, he bemoaned the committee’s partisan divide on the vote, noting that it reflects the battle over the Court’s ideological bent. He added that despite Republican colleagues’ concerns about Kagan’s association with former Justice Thurgood Marshall, he hoped she would follow his example.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said prior to the vote that he felt partisan divisions would prevent Kagan from garnering more than a few Republican votes in the full Senate.

“Sadly, it appears election-year politics may deprive her of the vote total that her nomination deserves,” he said.

The committee’s endorsement of Kagan was never in doubt — just the margin. Attention today focused on Graham, the only swing vote whose stance on Kagan was unknown going into today’s session. He was always the Republican most likely to break ranks in Kagan’s favor — he was the only member of his party to support Justice Sonia Sotomayor during her confirmation last year.

Graham noted as he announced his decision earlier today that while he would not have nominated a justice who shared Kagan’s political ideology, Obama had a mandate from the voters to choose a nominee.

“I’m going to vote for her because I believe this last election had consequences,” he said.

Other committee Republicans were not so charitable, using their time today to criticize Kagan’s lack of judicial experience and her stances on some hot-button issues.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the committee’s ranking member, criticized Kagan in part because she had restricted military recruiters while dean of Harvard Law School. He and other Republicans brought up that issue repeatedly during Kagan’s confirmation hearings.

“Throughout her career, Ms. Kagan has placed her politics above the law,” Sessions wrote in a USA Today op-ed published today.

C-SPAN reported that the full Senate will likely take up Kagan’s confirmation starting Aug. 2.

Updated at 1:12 p.m.

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