WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham gave a guardedly positive reaction Monday to President Barack Obama's choice of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to serve on the Supreme Court while stopping short of a full endorsement.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint said he is troubled that Kagan hasn't been a judge, but the Greenville Republican withheld final judgment until he learns more about her during confirmation hearings.
Graham, a Republican from Seneca, and DeMint, a Republican from Greenville, split on Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.
Graham was one of nine Republican senators who voted last August to confirm Sotomayor as the first Hispanic justice. DeMint joined 30 other GOP senators in opposing her.
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As solicitor general since March 2009, Kagan has been a top Justice Department official responsible for representing the U.S. government in Supreme Court cases in which it is a party.
"I have been generally pleased with her job performance as solicitor general, particularly regarding legal issues related to the war on terror," Graham said. "I look forward to meeting her again, this time to discuss her qualifications to sit on the highest court in the land."
DeMint was less laudatory.
"I'm concerned that she has no judicial experience to give Americans confidence that she will be impartial in her decisions," he said. "However, I will withhold judgment until she has the opportunity to present her views and the Senate has time to fully examine her record in academia."
Graham made a more positive reference to Kagan's previous experience as a law professor at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. "Solicitor General Kagan has a strong academic background in the law," he said.
In the confirmation vote last year for Kagan to be solicitor general, DeMint and 30 other Republican senators opposed her. Graham didn't vote because he was in South Carolina for a meeting, aides said.
Graham and DeMint will likely each meet with Kagan privately. Graham will have the opportunity to question her during Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. DeMint doesn't sit on the panel.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat, praised Kagan on Monday as "a well-respected jurist who is immensely qualified to serve on the nation's highest court."