Kagan Celebrates Confirmation at White House

Updated 2:59 p.m. ET

President Barack Obama is reveling in the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, his second successful appointment to the nation's highest court.

Both Mr. Obama and Kagan were beaming as the president celebrated the moment at a reception in the East Room of the White House.

Said the proud president: "This is a good day." He lauded Kagan for what he described as her formidable intellect and path-breaking career.

On Saturday, she's to be sworn in at the Supreme Court as the successor to retired Justice John Paul Stevens and the as the nation's 112th justice.

The 50-year-old U.S. solicitor general, who won confirmation Thursday over Republican opposition, will be sworn in twice by Chief Justice John Roberts.

She will recite one oath as prescribed by the Constitution in a private ceremony in the high court's Justices' Conference Room, with only her family present. Then, Roberts will administer a second oath, taken by judges, with the Kagan's family and friends and reporters present.

She won't be formally installed as a justice until Oct. 1 in a courtroom ceremony at the start of the court's new term.

"When she takes that bench for the first time in history there will be three women serving on our nation's highest court," Mr. Obama said in remarks at the White House, and the Supreme Court

Kagan thanked Mr. Obama, his staff, and the Senate Judiciary Committee for supporting her through the nomination.

"I also very much enjoyed meeting with 83 senators. But really, who's counting?" Kagan joked.

Addressing her former colleagues at the Office of the Solicitor General, Kagan said, "Once I put on the robe I'm only going to vote with them when they have the better of the argument."

Kagan isn't expected to alter the ideological balance of the court, where Stevens was considered a leader of the liberal wing. But CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford says that Kagan may be able to swing some cases.

"That court is closely divided. You have four liberals and four conservatives. And then there's that key swing justice vote in the middle they're always fighting over. So, the Obama administration hopes she'll be able to persuade him to go over to the left side a little more and get some of those cases more in the left column," Crawford said.

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The two parties clashed over her nomination and the court itself. Republicans argued that Kagan was a politically motivated activist who would be unable to put aside her personal opinions and rule impartially. Democrats defended her as a highly qualified trailblazer for women who could bring a note of moderation and real-world experience to a polarized court they said was dominated by just the kind of activists the GOP denounced.

Kagan is the first Supreme Court nominee in nearly 40 years with no experience as a judge, and her addition will mark the first time that three women will serve on the nine-member court together.

"She's never been a judge, so she has to get her clerks together, start reading cases," Crawford said. "The court comes back on the first Monday of October. She has a lot to learn, a lot of catching up to do to take the seat of Justice Stevens."

Obama hailed the addition of another woman to the court - just a year after his first nominee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was confirmed - as a sign of progress for the country. And he called the 63-37 confirmation vote "an affirmation of (Kagan's) character and her temperament, her open-mindedness and evenhandedness, her determination to hear all sides of every story and consider all possible arguments."

In the final tally, five Republicans joined all but one Democrat to support Kagan, giving her a slightly narrower margin of support than Sotomayor received.

"That vote was largely on party line. That's just a fact of life in these modern Supreme Court confirmation hearings," Crawford said. "The days of justices getting confirmed, 96-3, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was, those days are over."

GOP senators and conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association, argued that Democrats from conservative states should oppose Kagan because of her stances on social issues, including support for gun control measures and abortion rights.

But only one, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted "no."

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