Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown stuck with most of his Republican colleagues last week in voting against confirming Elena Kagan to be the nation’s 112th Supreme Court justice.
The newly elected senator was widely regarded as a potential Republican vote for President Barack Obama’s nominee, who already had the backing of five other Republicans and was assured of confirmation by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Yet Brown said just before the Senate vote that while he considers Kagan brilliant, he could not vote for a Supreme Court nominee who didn’t have judicial or courtroom experience.
Kagan has served as the Obama administration’s solicitor general and has been dean of Harvard Law School.
Brown ended up voting no, while his Massachusetts colleague John Kerry voted yes. The final tally was 63-37. Kagan is the fourth woman to serve the court and will join two others, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, among the current justices.
“When it comes to the Supreme Court, experience matters,” Brown said in a statement issued just hours before the vote. “No classroom can substitute for the courtroom itself, where decisions are made that affect the day-to-day lives of American citizens, and where one’s judicial character and temperament is shaped in favor of the fair and just application of the law.”
Using an analogy, he said the best baseball umpires “have spent enough time on the playing field to know the strike zone.”
Kerry cheered the confirmation.
“Massachusetts is proud to send yet another outstanding public servant and great mind to serve on the Supreme Court, and as father to two daughters, I’m especially proud that in an America where women comprise more than half the population, Elena Kagan now joins Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor in making history as the first women to comprise a full third of the highest court in our country,” Kerry said in a statement.
Brown had been coy about his intentions since Obama nominated Kagan. It was his first Supreme Court vote since staging an upset in January to claim the Senate seat long held by a Democratic icon, the late Edward M. Kennedy.
Brown hosted Kagan for a meeting at his Senate office, and announced afterward that she had persuaded him she supports the military, despite her decision as dean to ban its recruiters from the Harvard Law campus. Brown is both an attorney and a member of the Army National Guard.
The senator also fulfilled his customary duty to join his Massachusetts colleague, Democratic Sen. John Kerry, in introducing Kagan before nomination hearings at the Senate Judiciary Committee.
At that time, he expressed admiration for Kagan.
“As an attorney myself, I recognize an impressive legal resume when I see one,” Brown said in late June. “Ms. Kagan is undoubtedly a brilliant woman who has served her country in a variety of capacities. She has made significant contributions to Massachusetts, and I thank her for that.”
Yet Brown also hedged in his remarks.
“Our constitutional duty of ‘advice and consent’ is imperative and should not be taken lightly,” he said. “In closing, I look forward to a thorough and fair examination of Ms. Kagan’s record.”
Associated Press Writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Washington contributed to this report.