Elections lend Kagan debate a more partisan tinge

Both sides capitalize on nominee; Sens. McCain, Hatch and Murkowski tout their "no" votes

Topics: Elena Kagan, Supreme Court,

Republicans running for re-election are coming out early against Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Democrats are using her picture to raise money.

This summer’s debate over Kagan’s nomination has taken on a particularly partisan tinge because it’s taking place just months before fall elections, even though her confirmation is not in serious doubt.

Last year, many Republicans stayed publicly uncommitted for weeks about how they would vote on Justice Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s first pick for the high court.

This time around, however, with the president’s popularity sagging and GOP senators eager to draw strong contrasts with him and other Democrats, several who are facing re-election have been quick to announce their plans to vote “no” on Kagan.

They include Arizona Sen. John McCain, Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

All were opponents of Sotomayor’s last year when she won just nine Republican votes. But most waited until later in the game to announce how they would vote, including Murkowski, who held out until the day before the roll call.

And Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has also been much quicker this year to announce his opposition to Kagan than he was to state his opposition to Sotomayor. Hatch doesn’t face voters until 2012, but he’s keenly aware that conservatives in his state are in no mood to tolerate lawmakers who side with Democrats, having just turned out fellow Utah Sen. Robert Bennett in a bitter intraparty fight.

“He has very clearly seen where the attitudes of the voters of Utah are right now,” said Gary Marx of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, a group that’s pressing Republicans and Democrats from right-leaning states to oppose Kagan.

“What you’re seeing is where there are senators and candidates who are closest to the people — those senators and candidates who are in election races or up for election — they’re the ones that are coming out most strongly against Kagan,” Marx said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans on Tuesday requested and won a one-week delay in sending Kagan to the full Senate for a vote — a routine move by the party out of power to register opposition to a nominee. But barring a surprise development, Kagan, 50, who has served as the Obama administration’s solicitor general, is on track to win confirmation by early August to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens and become the Supreme Court’s fourth woman.



In a year when job losses and economic doldrums are dominating voters’ attention, her nomination is hardly a central issue in most campaigns. But conservative activists have been urging GOP candidates to view a vote on Obama’s nominee as yet another chance to register opposition to the president’s agenda — and to a judge they argue would be a rubber stamp for it.

By the same token, Democrats are using Kagan’s nomination as a chance to raise money and stoke enthusiasm among the president’s supporters. The Democratic Party circulated an e-mail earlier this month that linked to a fundraising appeal bearing a photograph of Kagan and a bumper sticker-style “Kagan for Justice” banner.

Republicans seeking to succeed retiring senators or topple sitting Democrats have also been quick to say they would oppose Kagan if they had a vote. They include Arkansas Rep. John Boozman, running to oust Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln; Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, who’s seeking the seat of retiring Sen. Kit Bond; and tea party-backed Marco Rubio in Florida, who is running to succeed retired Sen. Mel Martinez. Former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and conservative lawyer Ovide LaMontagne, who are vying to succeed retiring Sen. Judd Gregg, also have both said they’re against Kagan.

Bond, Martinez and Gregg all broke with their party’s leaders last year to back Sotomayor. Ayotte said shortly afterward that she, too, would have backed Obama’s first Supreme Court choice.

High court battles in the last 20 years have yielded similarly partisan results, becoming increasingly bitter proxy fights for each party’s vision of the role of the courts and opportunities for Republicans and Democrats to appeal to their core supporters on hot-button social issues such as abortion and gun rights.

But Supreme Court nominations before that were not as polarizing; members of the opposing party usually backed the president’s choice barring extraordinary circumstances. Hatch, for instance, supported every Supreme Court nominee he voted on for more than 30 years in the Senate — including Democratic-named Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer — until casting his “no” vote against Sotomayor last year.

Times are different now.

Last year marked the first time the politically active National Rifle Association waded into the Supreme Court fray, coming out in opposition to Sotomayor and then, shortly before her confirmation, declaring that it would count senators’ “yes” votes against them in their closely watched candidate ratings that go out to millions of gun-owning voters.

This year the NRA moved more quickly, announcing simultaneously that it would not only oppose Kagan but also punish senators in its candidate ratings if they support her confirmation — a factor that strategists in both parties acknowledge weighs heavily on Republicans and some Democrats from conservative-leaning states. The group said it began circulating a 90-second Web ad against Kagan this week.

“Gun owners in this country and NRA members are not only a loyal voting bloc, they’re a very savvy voting bloc, and they are paying close attention to these votes,” said Chris Cox, the organization’s top lobbyist.

Marx said the NRA grade could put pressure on Republicans and Democrats from conservative states who are facing voters this year, like Lincoln, and even some — like Alaska’s Sen. Mark Begich and Nebraska’s Sen. Ben Nelson — who don’t face re-election for another two or four years.

Marx’s group, the Judicial Crisis Network, is also running phone banks in South Carolina targeting Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Sotomayor supporter who has signaled he may also back Kagan.

“We know these are the types of folks who are active in Republican primaries — they’re active year in and year out,” Marx said.

Graham suggested at Kagan’s confirmation hearings, however, that he’s more inclined to approach Supreme Court nominations with an eye on another race: the 2008 presidential election that Obama won, thus handing him the power to name justices.

“Elections,” Graham told Kagan at the hearings, “have conseqeuences.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>