President Obama announced this week that he had chosen Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens when he retires. In his remarks to the press, Obama highlighted Kagan’s ability to work with both conservatives and liberals throughout her career.
“Elena is respected and admired not just for her intellect and record of achievement, but also for her temperament — her openness to a broad array of viewpoints; her habit, to borrow a phrase from Justice Stevens, ‘of understanding before disagreeing’; her fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder,” he said.
Although Obama has voiced his preference, the Senate has the final say as to who will serve on the court, according to the U.S. Constitution. Kagan already has won Senate confirmation once, as solicitor general, drawing the support of seven Republicans as well as all Democrats and Independents. But her confirmation in that temporary, political position does not guarantee she will win Senate approval for one she could hold the rest of her life.
“Ms. Kagan is currently a member of President Obama’s administration and serves at his pleasure in a position that lasts no longer than the administration itself,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said a few hours after Obama’s announcement. “By contrast, today she was nominated for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.”
“The standard of scrutiny is clearly much higher now. Now we must determine whether someone who is a member of the President’s administration will be an independent and impartial jurist on the nation’s highest court,” he continued.
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