Final Arguments Begin Ahead of Kagan Confirmation Vote

WASHINGTON -- A confirmation vote was all but assured for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as the Senate began debate on making her the fourth female justice.

Supporters and opponents painted vastly different portraits of the Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday, as they got their final say on the Senate floor before this week's vote to confirm her nomination. Confirming Kagan, 50, for a lifetime seat on the court is one of the last pieces of business senators will attend to before leaving for a monthlong vacation.

Democratic senators praised President Barack Obama's nominee as a highly qualified legal scholar who would add a sorely needed note of fairness and common sense to a court whose conservative majority, they argue, has run amok. Republicans charged she is an inexperienced cipher who would use her post to mold the law to her own liberal beliefs.

Despite the partisan divide, Kagan was on track for easy confirmation with the support of nearly all Democrats and a handful of Republican senators. In line to become the court's fourth woman, she is not expected to alter the panel's ideological balance of the court because she would succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens, a leader of the court's liberal wing.

Kagan has served as the Obama administration's solicitor general.

"She made clear she'll base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution; not on politics, not on an ideological agenda," said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee's senior Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions presented a harsh indictment of Kagan, calling her an unqualified, intellectually dishonest nominee who would pretend to be an objective judge but would seek to push her own agenda.

"I don't think it's a secret. I think this is pretty well known that this is not a judge committed to restraint, (or) objectivity," Sessions said. He said her past record and testimony indicate that she would be "an activist, liberal, progressive, politically minded judge who will not be happy simply to decide cases but will seek to advance her causes under the guise of judging."