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Girl Power! Elena Kagan is Confirmed to the Supreme Court

August 5, 2010

Sonia Sotomayor and Elena KaganThis is a good thing! But as I wrote at Liberaland immediately following the vote, you ‘d never know that Kagan’s confirmation is a BFD from public reaction. Today’s vote meets with the same collective ennui as most of the Obama administration’s recent accomplishments.

Among the people that are taking notice, there is an impulse to thank the five brave Republican Senators (Collins, Snowe, Lugar, Graham and Gregg) that crossed the aisle to make today’s vote possible. (There is also great disappointment in Democrat Ben Nelson’s no vote.)

The thing is, not too long ago a 63-37 vote on the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice would have been unheard of. As David Corn of Mother Jones magazine pointed out in a tweet today, Antonin Scalia was confirmed with a 98-0 vote. More recently, Chief Justice John Roberts was confirmed with a 78-22 vote. So you’ll forgive me if I’m not jumping up and down to thank the five principled Republicans for standing up for a fairly uncontroversial nominee.

There’s no time to sit back and enjoy the victory, though – the media is hot on the story that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might decide to retire, giving Obama another chance to place a young, progressive jurist on the Court this year. Then again, maybe she won’t.

As it turns out, Ginsburg says she finds the prospect of three women on the Court together to be exhilarating, and she plans to stick around to enjoy it.  This leaves me a little conflicted, because on the one hand, I’d like to have a young progressive locked into that slot for years to come. (Ginsburg is 77, has struggled with pancreatic cancer in recent years, and recently suffered the loss of her spouse.) On the other hand, I would like to see the Court continue to move closer toward a gender makeup similar to the nation as a whole (women make up 50.7% of the population.) What are the real chances of Obama appointing three women in a row? After all, there were actually grumblings that he appointed two in  row. If Ginsburg were to step down, chances are she’d be replaced with a man, unless of course Obama wants to shore up the women’s vote. (Hint)

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