U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has picked up at least one Republican supporter: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Graham said this morning that he expects he would disagree with many of Kagan’s rulings, but he said that President Barack Obama deserves some deference in making nominations and he called Kagan generally qualified for the Court.
“I believe the last election had consequences,” Graham said, “and this president chose someone who’s qualified, who has the experience and knowledge to serve on this court, who is in the mainstream of liberal philosophy and understands the difference between being a judge and a politician.”
Graham, calling his decision “not a hard choice,” spoke as the Senate Judiciary Committee debates whether to recommend Kagan’s nomination. A vote is set to follow after the debate.
In laying out his reasoning, Graham rebutted some conservative criticisms of Kagan. He said that Kagan was within her rights when, as Harvard Law School dean, she opposed the U.S. military’s exclusion of gays and lesbians and limited the military’s access to recruiting services. “Their right to do so was within the law, and the big loss was not the military’s loss but Harvard’s,” Graham said.
Graham praised Kagan’s hiring of several conservative law professors at Harvard. And, he said, referring to terrorism policies, “I think she understands we’re at war.”
He also framed the Kagan vote as a test of the Constitution’s “advice and consent” clause. “Are we basically putting a political standard in place of a constitutional standard? That’s for each senator to decide,” Graham said. He added there would be times he would think differently — such as the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit — but “it should be the exception, not the rule,”
Kagan wrote a letter to Graham this month, at his request, praising the qualifications of Miguel Estrada to be an appellate judge. Kagan and Estrada were classmates at Harvard Law, and they both failed to win confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after being nominated by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively.
Estrada has since endorsed Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. “It’s particularly impressive when a conservative can say something good about a liberal. That’s something that’s being lost in this country a bit,” Graham said.