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Senate continues debate on Kagan nomination

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Senator calls Elena Kagan dishonest
  • Senators are debating on potential Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
  • Five Republicans have signaled their intention to vote for her, virtually guaranteeing nomination
  • One Democrat has announced his opposition
  • Kagan would replace John Paul Stevens, the longest-tenured justice on the high court

Washington (CNN) -- Senators are expected to continue floor debate Wednesday on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

The 50-year-old solicitor general is expected to be confirmed as the 112th justice on Thursday, and could be sworn into her judicial post by week's end.

On Tuesday, the debate centered on Kagan's lack of judicial experience, and whether that would hurt her ability to sit on the nation's highest court. All nine members of the current court came from various federal appeals courts.

"I have long urged presidents from both political parties to look outside what I have called 'the judicial monastery,'" said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who, by tradition, kicked off the Senate debate. "Her credentials and legal abilities have been extolled by many from across the political spectrum including [retired] Justice [Sandra Day] O'Connor and Justice [Antonin] Scalia. No one can question the intelligence or achievements of this woman. No one should question her character either."

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The committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, raised concerns that her past work in the Clinton White House and her lack of a judicial background would make her a political "activist" on the bench.

"I think a real lawyer or experienced judge who had seen the courtroom and the practice of law would not have tried as she did to float their way through a [Senate confirmation] hearing in the manner that she did," Sessions said. "Her testimony failed to evidence an understanding of the gravity of the issues with which she was dealing and the important nature of her role in them."

Five Republicans have so far signaled their intention to vote for her, meaning conservatives don't have the strength in numbers to delay the proceedings with a filibuster.

Only one Democrat has announced his opposition, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

"I have heard concerns from Nebraskans regarding Ms. Kagan, and her lack of a judicial record makes it difficult for me to discount the concerns raised by Nebraskans, or to reach a level of comfort that these concerns are unfounded," he said in a statement.

Kagan would become only the fourth woman ever to sit on the prestigious bench.

If confirmed, the New York native and former Harvard Law School dean would replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

She was tapped by President Obama on May 10 and the Judiciary Committee last month sent her nomination to the floor.