Graham Supports Kagan Nomination; Says Obama Chose "Wisely"

3/7/10--Washington, DC--Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks in the CBS Studio lobby after appearing on "Face The Nation" in Washington, DC March, 2010. Photo by Chris Usher CHRIS USHER

Lindsey Graham
CBS/ Chris Usher

Claiming to have an obligation to honor President Obama's choice for a new Supreme Court justice -- so long as she is qualified -- Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina today joined Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in approving Elena Kagan's nomination to the court.

Graham was the only Republican in the committee to support Kagan, but his single vote ensures that Democrats will have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a potential Republican filibuster of the nomination.

The senator made clear he disagrees with Kagan on a number of issues, such as the legal soundness of the "don't ask, don't tell" law, which prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Kagan has said unequivocally she opposes the law. However, Graham said the Constitution calls for him "not to think of the 100 reasons I would pick somebody differently."

"I could give you 100 reasons on why I could vote 'no.' No one spent more time trying to beat President Obama than I did, except maybe Sen. McCain," Graham said. "But I understood we lost."

Kagan, currently Mr. Obama's solicitor general, has proven that she has a good character and understands the difference between serving as a politician versus serving as a judge, Graham said. President Obama chose "wisely" in his nomination, he added.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Elena Kagan

Graham acknowledged the political risk Republicans faced, especially in a midterm election year, by supporting the president's nominee.

"How do you stay within keeping your job and honoring the fact that the people have spoken?" he asked.

Many other Republicans cited the actions Kagan took as dean of Harvard Law School to oppose "don't ask don't tell" as part of the reason for their opposition to her nomination. While Kagan was dean, military recruiters had limited access to the law school campus because, Kagan said, the "don't ask don't tell" law conflicted with the school's non-discrimination policy.

Graham said that "at the end of the day, this Harvard Law School exercise said more about Harvard than about the military." He said he believes Kagan is a "loyal American" with as much commitment and respect for the military as anyone else.

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