Kagan confirmed to Supreme Court; Grassley votes no

The U.S. Senate confirmed Elana Kagan as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court today on a 63-37 vote. As he did on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley voted against confirmation. He explained his reasoning in more detail this week, and I've posted his prepared floor statement after the jump. It amuses me to see Grassley question Kagan's "commitment to the Constitution and rule of law" when he is open to revising the clear, unambiguous meaning of the 14th Amendment because of current Republican views on immigration.

Last summer Grassley voted against confirming President Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Before that, Grassley had never opposed confirming a president's nominee for the high court.

Five Senate Republicans voted to confirm Kagan: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the only Democrat to vote no. In fact, NPR reported that Nelson just became the first Democrat to vote against a Democratic president's Supreme Court nominee since Lyndon Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall in 1967.

UPDATE: Senator Tom Harkin's statement on the Kagan confirmation is after the jump.

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Branstad wants to punish children for parents' mistakes

How low will Terry Branstad go in his efforts to score political points on the immigration issue? Before the primary election, he exaggerated how much undocumented immigrants cost the state budget and said he wouldn’t offer their children in-state college tuition. Earlier this month, he called for new enforcement that would copy Arizona’s “show your papers” approach but (magic pony style) wouldn’t leave Iowa taxpayers footing the bill for immigrants jailed.

Now Branstad is grandstanding against the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows children of undocumented immigrants to attend public schools. Speaking on Jan Mickelson’s conservative talk radio show on July 27, the Republican nominee for governor said, “I believe that we need to see that [ruling] overturned.”

Branstad is taking a fairly extreme position here. The Plyler v. Doe decision, which struck down a Texas statute denying public education to children of undocumented immigrants, has been settled law for nearly 30 years. (Not that I’d put it past the current activist right-wing Supreme Court majority to overturn longstanding precedent.)

I haven’t seen any Branstad campaign press release declaring that he wants to take public education away from illegal immigrants, so maybe he was cynically throwing a bone to Mickelson’s listening audience. Governor Chet Culver’s campaign manager Donn Stanley pointed out that during the 16 years Branstad was governor after Plyler v Doe took effect, “He never had the state Department of Education oppose that ruling.”

But what an indictment of Branstad’s “family values” if he was speaking sincerely on Mickelson’s show. He would tell children no, we’re not going to educate you, because your parents did something bad. Stanley told the Des Moines Register, “It also just seems that having these kids in school instead of on the street would be better for society […] Speaking generally, punishing children for what their parents do illegally is not a value the governor has.”

Branstad should answer two follow-up questions. First, if elected governor, would he try to pass a law denying education benefits to children of undocumented immigrants? Such a law would be challenged in court, perhaps creating an opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the issue.

Second, would Branstad take any other steps to restrict education opportunities for immigrant children? Republican attorney general candidate Brenna Findley recently told Mickelson that while Plyler v Doe applies to Iowa, she favored trying to “work with the Department of Education” to find ways our state could address this issue. Branstad talks up Findley everywhere he campaigns; would he work with her toward this end? Incidentally, even Findley didn’t go so far as to say that Plyler v Doe was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention this part of the Des Moines Register article:

“Gov. Branstad believes that people who are here illegally should not receive taxpayer-funded benefits because it drains our budget and is an added expense to taxpayers,” Branstad campaign spokesman Tim Albrecht said. “We’re talking about those children here illegally. We’re not talking about those born here.”

I haven’t seen any statistics on the estimated number of children in Iowa who were brought to this country illegally, as opposed to native-born Iowa children of undocumented immigrants. Even if Branstad got his wish and the Supreme Court revised its thinking on this issue, it would be difficult to implement the kind of distinction Albrecht is talking about. Theoretically, you could have school district denying enrollment to older siblings while educating younger siblings who were born in Iowa.  

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Grassley will vote against confirming Kagan to Supreme Court

Chuck Grassley will vote no when the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up Elana Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court today, he announced today. In a statement, Grassley said Kagan "failed to answer directly" many questions asked during her confirmation hearings. Supreme Court nominees proposed by Republican presidents have likewise declined to answer certain questions in committee, but Grassley said "candid answers" were needed from Kagan because "she has no previous judicial experience." I posted the full text of Grassley's statement below. He also told Radio Iowa that Kagan won't exercise "judicial restraint" and will "let her own private views enter in" as opposed to interpreting the law. (No word on whether he found Kagan to be "aggressive" or "obnoxious.")

It's rich to hear Republicans talk about judicial restraint when judicial activism has "become a defining feature of the Roberts Court's unfolding legacy" (see also here).

Click here to watch a YouTube video of Grassley questioning Kagan during Judiciary Committee hearings in late June. Radio Iowa and Blog for Iowa summarized the exchanges between Grassley and Kagan, which covered guns rights and gay marriage, among other issues.

Grassley voted to confirm both of President Bill Clinton's nominees for the Supreme Court as well as all judges nominated by Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. Some Iowa conservatives have been grumbling about Grassley in recent years, so perhaps that explains his opposition to confirming Sonia Sotomayor last year and now Kagan.

UPDATE: Media Matters compiled a list of "45 myths and falsehoods" about Kagan's nomination.

SECOND UPDATE: The Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to confirm Kagan. All committee Democrats and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voted yes.

"No one spent more time trying to beat President Obama than I did, except maybe Senator McCain," Mr. Graham said Tuesday, referring to the 2008 presidential election and Senator John McCain  of Arizona, Mr. Obama's Republican rival. "I missed my own election - I voted absentee. But I understood: we lost, President Obama won. The Constitution, in my view, puts a requirement on me not to replace my judgment for his."

Mr. Graham said there were "100 reasons" he could vote against Ms. Kagan if he based his vote on her philosophy, which is at odds with his. But he said she met a time-honored standard for judicial nominees: whether they are qualified and of good character.

As a senator, Mr. Obama adopted a different standard, saying it was permissible to vote against a nominee based on judicial philosophy, not just qualifications. Mr. Graham said that approach undermined the judicial confirmation process, by making it more partisan.

"Something's changing when it comes to the advice and consent clause," he said. "Senator Obama was part of the problem, not part of the solution."

THIRD UPDATE: The reaction from Grassley's Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin is after the jump.

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Obama seeks to move Supreme Court to the right

Numerous media reported tonight that Monday morning, President Barack Obama will nominate his solicitor general, Elana Kagan, to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Above the Law blog saw several “clues” over the last few days that the president would pick Kagan.

I always expected Obama to choose corporate-friendly pro-choice moderate judges like President Bill Clinton’s appointees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Instead, Obama is choosing a corporate-friendly pro-choice “blank slate.” Kagan is a lot less qualified than Sonia Sotomayor, whom Obama named to the high court last year. She probably will turn out to be more conservative than Justice John Paul Stevens, whom she will replace if confirmed.

Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald laid out a devastating case against Kagan last month, and he supplemented that on Sunday with more links and commentary.

As far as I can tell, Obama gets two things out of this nomination: a chance to show off how “moderate” he is by enraging liberals, and a Supreme Court justice who will support any expansion of executive power begun under President George W. Bush and continued during the current administration.

If tonight’s reports are true, Obama is on the verge of making one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency. We may all pay for that decades into the future.

UPDATE: To be clear, I’m not advocating a progressive fight against confirming Kagan. That would be pointless and doomed to fail. I wish the president had named someone who would be a counter-weight to the four right-wing ideologues on the court, but not surprisingly, he chose a different course. I guess we’ll all have to hope that Lawrence Lessig is right about Kagan. Incidentally, I didn’t find Walter Dellinger’s case for her convincing; Greenwald decimated that piece here.

Meanwhile, we can count on conservatives to make idiotic arguments against Kagan. Media Matters previews and rebuts 15 “myths” about her nomination we’re likely to hear in the coming weeks.

SECOND UPDATE: Right on cue, the conservative National Review Online blog attacks Kagan’s “remoteness” from the average American because she did not learn to drive until her late 20s.

THIRD UPDATE: Democratic Senate candidate Tom Fiegen released the following statement regarding Kagan’s nomination:

“The President’s nomination of Ms. Kagan is an opportunity for our senior senator Chuck Grassley to either objectively advise and consent to the nomination or to bow to right wing forces in his party which took down Utah U.S. Senator Bob Bennett. Iowans will be watching to see whether Senator Grassley represents us or the most extreme wing of his own party.”

My money’s on “most extreme wing of his own party.” But at least this time Grassley will be able to remember why he voted against the president’s nominee.

FOURTH UPDATE: Oops, I forgot to post Grassley’s statement:

“A lifetime appointment requires a thorough vetting and I expect Elena Kagan to receive fair, respectful and deliberative consideration.  The Constitution gives the Senate a tremendous responsibility to carefully review the President’s nominees to the Supreme Court.   The Judiciary Committee must take time to ensure that the nominee will be true to the Constitution and apply the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences.  With no judicial experience, it becomes even more important that we ask thorough questions to determine that Ms. Kagan truly understands the constitutional role of a Supreme Court justice.”

Senator Tom Harkin released this statement:

“Elena Kagan is extremely qualified.  She has the intellect and experience necessary to serve on our nation’s highest Court and her stellar legal credentials have been recognized by liberal and conservative lawyers alike.  She clerked for two judges for whom I have enormous respect – Judge Abner Mikva and Justice Thurgood Marshall.  I am also encouraged that in this nomination, the President selected a candidate from outside of the Judiciary.  Elena Kagan is recognized as one of the leading legal educators in our country.  

“I am confident that, if confirmed, she will be an important voice on our Court for the rule of law and constitutional rights and values.  She will ensure equality and give proper effect to our most important statutes, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act, so our most vulnerable citizens receive the fullest protections of the law.

“Elena Kagan’s nomination comes after a series of firsts in her career – first female Dean of Harvard Law School and first female Solicitor General – setting the stage for what may be only the fourth woman to serve on the Court in our history.”

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New Supreme Court nominee speculation thread

MSNBC’s First Read reported today:

Per NBC’s Pete Williams and Savannah Guthrie, administration officials say at least eight names are on President Obama’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Six are women and two men. The names: U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Merrick Garland of the DC Court of Appeals, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former George Supreme Court Chief Judge Leah Ward Sears, Sidney Thomas of the 9th Circuit, and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. Of these names, people outside the government but familiar with White House thinking say the serious contenders are Kagan, Wood, Garland, Napolitano, and Granholm. Guthrie adds that Obama is likely to meet next week with key senators to discuss the vacancy. Many of the new additions are about interest group appeasement. And note the growing concern in the liberal/progressive blogosphere about Kagan.

One person who doesn’t sound concerned about Kagan is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:

“I like her,” he said, quickly adding, “and that might hurt her chances.”

Graham, whose support for Justice Sonia Sotomayor last summer was a turning point in her confirmation process, said he liked Kagan’s answers about national security and the president’s broad authority to detain enemy combatants when she was going through her own Senate confirmation.

Both of President Bill Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees had received a private stamp of approval from key Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. My hunch is that Graham’s kind words for Kagan help her chances with President Obama. He loves to position himself as a moderate between the left and the right.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Chris Bowers made the case for Sears here.

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