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Senate Republican delays Kagan nomination vote

Sessions sought more time to review her record

The Judiciary Committee is expected to recommend Kagan for a lifetime appointment on the high court. The Judiciary Committee is expected to recommend Kagan for a lifetime appointment on the high court.
By Mark Arsenault
Globe Staff / July 14, 2010

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WASHINGTON — An initial vote on Elena Kagan’s nomination to be a Supreme Court justice was delayed yesterday when a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee invoked his right to put off the panel’s decision for a week.

Democrats nonetheless remained confident they have enough votes to confirm Kagan in the full Senate before a congressional recess in August.

Under the new schedule, the Senate Judiciary Committee would hold its vote Tuesday, followed by debate and a final vote by the Senate. While many Republicans are expected to oppose the nomination of the former Harvard Law School dean, GOP leaders have said they don’t plan to try to filibuster to stop a vote.

President Obama in May nominated Kagan, 50, the administration’s solicitor general and a former policy adviser in the Clinton administration, to fill the seat of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. At confirmation hearings in June, she answered questions from committee members for 17 hours over two days.

Lawmakers said the delay in the Kagan vote was not an indication that her nomination was in trouble, but instead was designed to give senators returning from the July 4 recess more time to examine her record and look over her answers to written follow-up questions.

“I just think people are probably coming back from the break’’ and need more time, said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, who just returned from a trip to Israel. “I haven’t looked at the written responses to my questions.’’ Asked how he would vote, Graham said: “I’m still thinking. But she did well.’’

Graham was one of nine Republicans who last year supported Sonia Sotomayor, nominated by Obama to fill the seat of retiring Justice David Souter. Another Republican who supported Sotomayor, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, said yesterday: “I haven’t made any decision. I’m still reading her testimony.’’

The Judiciary Committee — 12 Democrats and seven Republicans — is expected to recommend Kagan for a lifetime appointment on the high court. Democrats control 58 seats in the Senate, pending a replacement for Senator Robert Byrd, who died June 28.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, is adamant that the full Senate decide on Kagan’s nomination before breaking for the summer recess, according to his spokesman, Jim Manley.

But in requesting more time to review the record yesterday, the committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said he still had “serious questions’’ about Kagan’s background and experience.

Leahy announced yesterday that he will vote for Kagan. “Solicitor General Kagan demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the law and fidelity to it,’’ he said in prepared remarks to the committee. “She made clear that she will base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution, not politics or an ideological agenda.’’

Susan Milligan of the Globe Washington bureau contributed to this report.