ByÂ Laura LitvanÂ -Bloomberg News
The U.S. Senate began debate onÂ Elena Kaganâ€™s Supreme Court nomination, which is headed for confirmation before senators leave town in a few days for a month-long recess.
Kagan, 50, the former dean ofÂ Harvard Law School, would be the fourth woman in U.S. history to take a seat on the high court. Democrats control the Senate, 59-41, and five Republicans so far have said they will support her.
Senate Judiciary Committee ChairmanÂ Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said today Kagan is qualified for the high court and has â€œmainstream views.â€ Her testimony at her confirmation hearings shows â€œshe will not be the kind of justice who would substitute her personal preferences and overrule congressional efforts designed to protect hardworking Americans,â€ Leahy said.
Kagan was nominated by PresidentÂ Barack Obama on May 10 to replace JusticeÂ John Paul Stevens, who retired after 35 years on the nine-member court. She is the U.S. solicitor general, the governmentâ€™s top lawyer before the Supreme Court, and worked for four years in PresidentBill Clintonâ€™s White House as a lawyer and policy adviser.
She would likely align as Stevens did with the courtâ€™s more liberal members, leaving intact the courtâ€™s 5-4 conservative majority on such issues as abortion, gun rights and campaign finance.
Republicans opposing her say she is a political activist who lacks experience as a judge. SenatorJeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on theÂ Judiciary Committee, said today her writings suggest biases that she could bring to the court.
He also criticized her decision at Harvard Law School to bar military recruiters on campus to protest the Pentagonâ€™s policy of banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.
â€œYou should have serious problems with this nomination,â€ Sessions said. He said Kagan â€œwill seek to advance her positions in the guise of judging.â€
Democrats say Kagan has impressive professional credentials and would bring balance to a closely divided court that, under Chief JusticeÂ John Roberts, has favored corporate interests over individual rights.
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