Senator Carper Applauds Senate Confirmation of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON – Today Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) released the following statement applauding the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 63 to 37: 


"I want to thank my colleagues for joining me in approving President Obama’s nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to serve on the Supreme Court.  I particularly appreciate the support of my friends on the other side of the aisle who joined me in voting for Ms. Kagan.  This vote is a Constitutional obligation, one that all members should take very seriously.  


"Ms. Kagan is recognized as one of the leading legal minds in our nation by scholars across the ideological spectrum.  Last month I was able to meet with Ms. Kagan and enjoyed a lengthy, insightful conversation with her. After our meeting, I can see why she is held in such high regard. Her intellect and vast knowledge of the law is evident and I walked away feeling that Ms. Kagan’s lifetime appointment is merited. I believe that she will make proud the President who nominated her and the senators who voted for her.  Perhaps just as important, she has the potential to become, over time, the kind of consensus-builder that the Supreme Court needs at this time in our nation’s history. We need an experienced, sound mind, like Ms. Kagan’s, seeking common-ground and common-sense decisions in all facets of government, especially on our Supreme Court."


Earlier this week Sen. Carper spoke in support of Elena Kagan’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sen. Carper’s speech can be watched here.  


A copy of Sen. Carper’s speech, as prepared for delivery, follows: 


"Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s confirmation to the United States Supreme Court.  I am confident that, in the years to come, she will make proud the President who has nominated her, as well as those of us who vote to confirm her.


"Let me begin today first by explaining why I am supporting her nomination.  And, second, let me outline why I believe that a number of our Republican colleagues should support Ms. Kagan’s nomination, as well.


"This is my fourth opportunity to vote on a Supreme Court nominee.  Like my colleagues, I take seriously our Constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent to determine whether a President’s judicial nominees truly merit a lifetime appointment.  I realize that a number of considerations are weighed by me and by my colleagues when making a decision as important as this one is.


"Before coming to the Senate, I was privileged to serve as Governor of Delaware.  In that role, I nominated dozens of men and women to serve as judges in our state courts.  The qualities that I sought then in judicial nominees included: unimpeachable integrity, a keen intellect, a thorough understanding of the law, sound judicial temperament, a willingness to listen to and consider both sides of a case, and a strong work ethic.


"These qualities are also the ones that guide me today as I decide how to vote on the judicial nominees that come before us in the Senate.  In applying each of those standards to Elena Kagan, it became clear to me, while examining her record, that she meets, or exceeds, all of them.


"First, consider her life and experience.  Elena Kagan graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University.  She then received a scholarship to pursue graduate studies at Oxford University and, after that, earned her law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.


"Following law school, Elena Kagan clerked for the D.C. Circuit Court and, then, for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.  Starting in 1989, Ms. Kagan spent two years in private practice before taking a position as professor of law at the University of Chicago.  Then, in 1995, she went to work in the White House, rising to the position of Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy.  In 2001, Ms. Kagan returned to the study of law as a professor, and then as Dean, of the Harvard Law School — the first woman to do so.


"Most recently, in 2009, Elena Kagan was confirmed by the Senate — with the support of seven of our Republican colleagues — to serve as the first female Solicitor General of the United States.


"Elena Kagan is widely-recognized as one of our nation’s leading legal minds and has been hailed as a preeminent scholar of administrative law.

"The American Bar Association has bestowed on Solicitor General Kagan its highest rating of ‘well qualified’ in assessing her record and evaluating her judicial temperament.


"I realize that some have criticized Elena Kagan for not having previously served on the ‘bench.’  I take a different view.  As a nominee from outside the ‘judicial monastery,’ I believe that Ms. Kagan’s background and experience will bring a valuable perspective and a breath of fresh air to the Supreme Court.


"As my colleagues consider her nomination, I hope they take into account the fact that, in our nation’s history, more than a third of our Supreme Court justices have had no prior experience on the bench.


"Others have objected to Ms. Kagan’s nomination on the grounds that, while serving as Dean of the Harvard Law School, she allegedly limited military recruiters’ access to students.


"This charge by opponents to Ms. Kagan’s nomination was one I took very seriously as I considered her qualifications to serve on our highest court.  As some of my colleagues know, I attended Ohio State University as a Navy R.O.T.C. midshipman and went on to serve five years as a naval flight officer during a hot war in Southeast Asia and for another 18 years as a ready reservist until the end of the Cold War.  I deeply appreciate all that the military has done for me, and I believe that military recruiters should be allowed to have access to college campuses and their students.


"Having examined this issue in some detail, I can say with confidence that I believe that Elena Kagan honors and reveres the men and women who serve our country in its armed forces, as do I.


"The fact is that military recruiters did continue to have access to students throughout her tenure, and in some years, recruitment levels actually rose, rather than diminished.


"Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting personally with Elena Kagan.  We spoke at length about many matters.  We talked about her life, her work, her values and her views on the law.  It was a revealing conversation and an encouraging one, in no small part because I walked away from it feeling that Elena Kagan is not just uncommonly bright and a scholar of the law.  Perhaps just as important, she has the potential to become, over time, the kind of consensus-builder that the Supreme Court needs at this time in our nation’s history.


"Given the plethora of closely-decided, 5-to-4 decisions emanating from the Supreme Court in recent years, it’s clear – at least to me – that they could use another justice who has the experience and ability to help them find common ground and work toward sound, reasonable, common-sense opinions.  Come to think of it, we could use a few more people like that in the legislative branch of our government, too, and on both sides of the aisle.


"Fortunately, among her colleagues and in the legal community, Elena Kagan is known as a consensus-builder.  Even those who may have a different judicial philosophy than Ms. Kagan nonetheless respect her judgment and her abilities.


"One of them is Michael McConnell, a constitutional law scholar who was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as a U.S. Circuit Court Judge on the 10th Circuit.  He had this to say about her:  "Publicly and privately, in her scholarly work and in her arguments on behalf of the United States, Elena Kagan has demonstrated a fidelity to legal principle even when it means crossing her political and ideological allies.  I urge you to confirm Elena Kagan to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court."


"It is clear to me and – I believe – to many others on both sides of the aisle that, if confirmed,  a ‘Justice Kagan’ would base her approach to deciding cases solely on the law and our Constitution – and not on any ideological agenda or on the politics of a case.


"Let me close by expressing my appreciation to the handful of Republican senators who have announced publicly in recent days that they intend to support Ms. Kagan’s nomination.  I’m sure it was not an easy decision.  I do believe, however, that it is the right decision for our country.  I hope you will be joined by a number of other Republican senators when the final vote is taken this week.


"Many of us remember when, in 1986, President Reagan nominated William Rehnquist to serve as Chief Justice of the United States, and his subsequent confirmation by the Senate with the support of 16 Democratic senators.


"However, not as many of us recall that, in 1971, when William Rehnquist was nominated to serve as associate justice on the Court, he had no prior experience on the bench.  Even so, 29 Democratic senators joined their Republican colleagues in supporting his confirmation.  And, as you know, Justice Rehnquist went on to have a long and distinguished career on the Supreme Court.


"The fact that Chief Justice Rehnquist’s nomination was supported by large numbers of Democratic senators not just once, but twice, is an important testament to the strength of our democratic process and our ability to work together across party lines.  I hope we can make a similar statement later this week with the confirmation of Ms. Kagan to the Supreme Court with the support of senators from both sides of the aisle."