WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to approve Elena Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 13-6 vote Tuesday sends Kagan’s nomination to the full Senate, where she is expected to be confirmed as early as next week to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
Just one Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, joined panel Democrats in supporting President Barack Obama’s second Supreme Court nominee. A few more Republicans are likely to back her in the full Senate, where Democrats have more than enough votes to confirm her.
Most Republican senators argue that Kagan would put her political views ahead of the law. They also point to what they call her liberal agenda on such issues as abortion and gun rights.
WATCH MSNBC COVERAGE OF LINDSEY GRAHAM’S DECISION TO BACK KAGAN:
President Barack Obama nominated Kagan, a 50-year-old New York native, to take the seat of Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in June after more than 34 years on the court. Kagan has served as solicitor general, the Obama administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, since last year.
On Monday, Kagan responded to Republican questions by saying that she would weigh stepping aside from hearing high court challenges to the new health care law on a case-by-case basis.
She was replying to a list of questions from committee Republicans about her involvement as solicitor general in defending the health law.
Kagan, Obama’s second Supreme Court nominee, was solicitor general while the health law was being passed and as some states sued the federal government in March to challenge its constitutionality.
She told Republicans in written responses to 13 questions that she had no involvement in developing the government’s response to the lawsuit and never was asked her views or offered them.
She said she attended at least one meeting where the litigation was briefly mentioned, and that the Justice Department filed a number of documents in the case during her tenure, but that she had no firsthand knowledge of any of the filings.
“I never served as counsel of record nor played any substantial role” in the case, Kagan wrote. “Therefore, I would consider recusal on a case-by-case basis, carefully considering any arguments made for recusal and consulting with my colleagues and, if appropriate, with experts on judicial ethics.”
Republicans suggested in their questions that any involvement at all with the health care litigation should induce Kagan to recuse herself to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Stevens led the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc. If Kagan is confirmed, she would not change the ideological balance on the deeply divided nine-member high court which includes four libeal and four conservative justices with Justice Anthony Kennedy often casting the pivotal swing vote.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.