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Senate moves toward a final vote on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan

By Paul Kane
Washington Post staff writer
Wednesday, August 4, 2010; A02

The Senate, tied in knots on almost every other legislative issue, is now gliding toward ending its session on a high note for Democrats by confirming Elena Kagan as the fourth woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

Unable to find consensus on a series of domestic policy issues -- including help for small businesses, financial aid to cash-strapped states and energy legislation -- Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) moved the chamber into several days of debate on Kagan's nomination Tuesday morning.

After coasting through her confirmation hearings in late June and winning approval from the Judiciary Committee two weeks ago, the solicitor general could have been confirmed many days ago.

Instead, Reid's leadership team decided that, whatever else happened before the summer recess, they wanted to finish on a positive note. So they scheduled Kagan's confirmation to be the last issue debated and voted on, probably Thursday afternoon or evening. The Senate will then recess for a five-week break, returning in mid-September.

With five GOP senators already supporting Kagan's nomination, Republicans are not planning to force a filibuster vote. One Democrat, conservative Ben Nelson (Neb.), has announced his intention to oppose her. She is likely to get 63 to 65 votes approving her confirmation, which is fewer than the 68 for Justice Sonia Sotomayor in August 2009 but more than the 58 for Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in 2006.

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