Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) became the first Senate Republican to offer support for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan -- giving the White House an important though largely unnecessary bipartisan boost as the confirmation process proceeds.
On Tuesday, the South Carolina Republican announced his intention to back the president's court pick as the Senate Judiciary Committee -- on which he sits -- prepares to pass the nomination to the Senate floor. Earlier in the day, two other Republicans on the committee, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), announced that they will oppose Kagan, leaving White House officials solely dependent on Graham for a Republican vote on the committee.
"No one spent more time trying to beat President Obama than I did, except maybe Senator McCain," Graham said, in explaining his decision. "But I understood we lost. President Obama won and I've got a lot of opportunity to disagree with him. But the Constitution in my view puts a requirement on me as a senator to not replace my judgment for his, not to think of the 100 reasons I would pick somebody differently, or pick a fight with Miss Kagan. It puts upon me a standard that stood the test of time, is the person qualified? Is it a person of good character? Are they someone that understands the difference between being a judge and a politician? And, quite frankly, I think she's passed all those tests."
The senator also cited, among other things, the endorsements that Kagan has received from conservative jurists and legal figures as a compelling reason for him to offer his support.
"I think she understands we're at war," said Graham. "When it comes time to evaluate people, I tend to listen to what people who have known the nominee longer than I have, what they say. And particularly impressive when a conservative can say something good about a liberal. That's being lost in this country a bit. And it's vice versa but Miguel Estrada's letter just really hit me hard. He said, "If such a person who has demonstrated great intellect, high accomplishment and upright life is not easily confirmable, I fear we will have reached a point where no capable person will readily accept a nomination for judicial service." Well, I'm not so sure we're there yet and I hope we never get there but that's something we should be mindful of. That's a good caution from Miguel Estrada about the Senate and where we're going and where the nation is going when confirming judges."
Graham's vote isn't necessary to ensure that Kagan will be considered by the entire Senate. The Democratic majority on the committee was enough for that. But it is a win for the White House, which put forward Kagan as a non-controversial nominee for the court, only to watch the GOP erect a host of partisan-driven critiques to block her path to confirmation.