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Obama Calls Kagan a ‘Trailblazing Leader’

Updated: 11:04 a.m.

President Barack Obama formally announced Monday morning his nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.

Like Stevens, “I have selected a nominee who I believe embodies that same excellence, independence, integrity and passion for the law, and who can ultimately provide that same kind of leadership on the court: our solicitor general and my friend, Elena Kagan,” Obama said.

The president called Kagan “a trailblazing leader” and said the former Harvard Law School dean is “widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds.” He also praised Kagan for her “fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder,” a quality he is hoping that Republicans will latch on to.

Obama made the announcement at 10 a.m. at the White House, where he was joined by Kagan and Vice President Joseph Biden. Kagan was confirmed by the Senate as solicitor general last March on a bipartisan 61-31 vote.

In brief remarks, Kagan said she is “honored and humbled” by the nomination and that in her role as solicitor general, her “long-standing appreciation for the Supreme Court’s role in our constitutional democracy has become ever deeper and richer.”

She also gave her perspective on the role of the court; she called it “an extraordinary institution” in the work it can do “by advancing the tenets of our Constitution, by upholding the rule of law, and by enabling all Americans, regardless of their background or their beliefs, to get a fair hearing and an equal chance at justice.”

If confirmed, Kagan, 50, would become just the fourth woman in the nation’s history to sit on the bench. She would also become the third female on the current court, which is unprecedented.

Obama’s nomination of Kagan would also mark the first time an individual without experience as a lower court judge ascended to the high court since former Chief Justice William Rehnquist was installed in 1972.

Kagan’s nomination had been rumored for several days. Her confirmation process is likely to take several weeks.

“I hope that the Senate will act in a bipartisan fashion, as they did in confirming Elena to be our solicitor general last year, and that they will do so as swiftly as possible so she can get busy and take her seat in time to fully participate in the work of the court this fall,” Obama said.

The president made his decision to nominate Kagan on Sunday and called her at 8 p.m. to tell her that she was his choice, according to a White House aide. Obama then called other candidates who had been high on his list — current Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow and federal appeals court judges Merrick Garland, Diane Wood and Sidney Thomas — to inform them of his decision.

At 8:30 a.m. Monday, Obama also called and spoke with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) about his decision. He also tried to reach Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

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