Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said today that he will vote against confirming Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, attacking her as unqualified and out-of-touch.
Voinovich’s opposition is significant because, as a retiring senator, he doesn’t face the pressure of an upcoming party primary. He also voted a year ago to confirm the first Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, because he said politics should not be part of the confirmation process.
In a harsh tone, Voinovich ridiculed Kagan’s relative lack of litigation or judicial experience. He noted that she was a “junior associate” when she spent two years at Washington’s Williams & Connolly, and that she has been solicitor general for less than two years.
“General Kagan argued her first case before the Supreme Court less than a year ago, and now we are going to confirm her as a member of that court?” Voinovich said in a speech on the Senate floor.
Comparisons to other justices who lacked prior judicial experience don’t hold up, he added. He said that the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Lewis Powell and Louis Brandeis each had decades of legal experience before being nominated, while Kagan has spent most of her time in academia and government. “General Kagan pales in comparison,” Voinovich said.
Kagan is still expected to win confirmation by a comfortable margin. Only one of the 59 members of the Democratic caucus is opposing her, while five Republicans are supporting her.
Earlier today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was among the Democrats who spoke in favor Kagan’s experience. Feinstein said it would be valuable for the Supreme Court to have another justice who has negotiated legislation, as Kagan did frequently during her four years in the Clinton White House.
Voinovich also took aim at the idea, put forth by President Barack Obama when he nominated Kagan, that Kagan understands how laws affect ordinary citizens. “Only a former law professor would think that a law school dean is somehow in touch with everyday people,” Voinovich said.
Updated at 4:49 p.m. with the vote count.