US Senators to Watch in Kagan Confirmation

Via Chris Cillizza at the Fix:

1. With a sedate day one of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation behind us, today is expected to be a bit more lively as the question and answer phase begins.Here’s six Senators on the Judiciary Committee to keep an eye on during today’s proceedings:

* Orrin Hatch: The Utah Republican voted to confirm Kagan as Solicitor General in 2009. But, he has also watched his Beehive State colleague Bob Bennett swept out of office last month by conservatives unhappy with some votes they deemed less than acceptable. With Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) waiting in the wings to challenge Hatch in 2012, can the incumbent afford to be anything but tough on Kagan and then vote against her? And, if he doesn’t, might that be an early indication that a retirement is in the offing?

* Lindsey Graham: Graham is the Republican Democrats have come to love — viewing him as fair-minded and not overly partisan. But Graham is a very savvy politician and understands that he can only venture so far from his conservative base without getting into real trouble. Having already voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Court, will Graham poke his base in the eye again with a “yes” vote on Kagan? He seemed to be undecided during his opening statement on Monday, telling the nominee that her hearing would be “probative and meaningful”.

* Arlen Specter: Long a titan of the Judiciary Committee as a Republican, Specter, was a, well, specter, of his former self during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings as he used the event to prove to Democrats that he was one of them after switching parties earlier in year. It didn’t work as he lost his primary fight to Rep. Joe Sestak. Now that Specter is unencumbered by electoral concerns and calculations for the first time in decades, how will he treat Kagan?

* Dick Durbin/Chuck Schumer: Durbin, of Illinois, and Schumer, of New York, are competing in a behind-the-scenes battle to become the next Democratic leader of the Senate if Harry Reid (Nev.) loses his re-election fight this fall. Rarely will you get a better chance to see their differing approaches and rate their overall effectiveness than today as the two men will question the nominee within 30 minutes (or so) of one another. You can bet their colleagues will be watching to see which one performs better as the caucus weighs its options if Reid comes up short.

* Al Franken: The Sotomayor hearings amounted to a public debut of sorts for the comedian turned Minnesota Democratic Senator. And, while Franken did occasionally crack wise, he was generally a low-profile presence on the committee. With another year of Senate service under his belt, does Franken take a different approach to this confirmation? With liberals expressing some concerns about Kagan’s past policy positions (or, more accurately, her lack of past policy positions) will Franken take the mantle as liberal champion on the committee and try to draw her out?


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