Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, breaking with the GOP on an election-year Supreme Court nomination, on Wednesday became the second in his party to announce he would vote to confirm Elena Kagan as a justice.
The Indiana Republican's position doesn't alter the positive outlook for Kagan, who was already on track to be confirmed early next month. Democrats have more than enough votes to push through her nomination, and Republican foes have shown little inclination — despite pressure from conservative groups — to block the move through a filibuster.
Lugar's announcement is the latest in what's expected to be a trickle of support among the Senate's band of GOP moderates for President Barack Obama's choice to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens.
In a statement, Lugar said he'd carefully followed Kagan's confirmation hearing testimony and the debate about her nomination, including recommendations from his constituents, and concluded that she is up to the job.
"I have concluded that Solicitor General Elena Kagan is clearly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and that she has demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of court history and decisions," Lugar said.
He added that Kagan has had a "distinguished career" in education and public service and is "well regarded by the legal community and her peers."
Most Republicans argue that Kagan would seek to impose a liberal political agenda on the Supreme Court, moving to expand abortion rights, sanction gay marriage, and curb gun rights, among other things.
Political pressures are also playing a role a few months away from midterm elections, with interest groups leaning on senators to display their differences with Obama by voting down his nominee.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Tuesday became the first Republican to say he'd join Democrats in backing Kagan.
Lugar is one of seven Republicans who voted to confirm Kagan last year as solicitor general. Three GOP conservatives who also did so — Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jon Kyl of Arizona — are opposing her for the Supreme Court. The other three — Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg — have yet to announce their intentions.
Collins, Gregg and Snowe are all considered potential GOP supporters of Kagan, as is Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who said Tuesday he hadn't yet decided how to vote.
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