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Kagan Confirmed

August 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Obama’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Elana Kagan, was officially confirmed by the Senate on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 63-37. She’ll be sworn in on Saturday, marking the first time in U.S. history that three women have served on the court simultaneously.

As the NYT reports, this wasn’t exactly a slam-dunk confirmation:

In the final vote, 5 Republicans joined 56 Democrats and 2 independents in supporting the nomination; 36 Republicans and one Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, opposed her.

The partisan divide over the nomination illustrated the increasing political polarization of fights over Supreme Court nominees, who in years past were backed by both parties in the absence of some disqualifying factor. Ms. Kagan received fewer Republican votes than Justice Sotomayor, who was supported by nine Republicans in her 68-to-31 confirmation on Aug. 6, 2009. Democrats balked at Samuel A. Alito Jr., nominated by President George W. Bush, with only four endorsing him in a 58-to-42 vote in January 2006.

Since the Senate became a 100-seat chamber in 1959, only one (of 21 total) Supreme Court nominees has been confirmed with fewer votes than Kagan. The full history of Supreme Court nominees can be viewed at this link. The Times chalks this up to increased polarization, but it’s also worth mentioning that Kagan will be the only Justice who doesn’t have previous experience as a judge. Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA], for example, cited this lack of experience in his explanation for voting “no.”

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