This vote was on confirming Elena Kagan to be U.S. solicitor general, a top-tier spot at the Justice Department.
Her nomination had been held up by Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (who was a Republican at that time) because he wanted her to answer some more questions about her legal stance on certain issues. Some Republicans had expressed concerns about her having criticized a law that bars universities receiving federal funding from restricting campus access to military recruiters.
Specter said he had asked her for more specifics on some of her views on pending cases and she did not answer adequately, and that as a result he would be voting no.
"We ought to take the confirmation process very seriously. I believe the scarcity and paucity of Senators who have come to the floor to debate this nomination does not, candidly, speak too well for this institution. We are all waiting to vote to go home," Specter said, hinting that the debate was happening on a Thursday afternoon, which usually means lawmakers are close to leaving town for the weekend. "Well, I think we have to pay a little more attention, and I have gone to some length to try to find out more about Dean Kagan. In the absence of being able to do so and to have a judgment on her qualifications, I am constrained to vote no."
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Kagan, who is a dean at Harvard Law School, is eminently qualified and has gone far out of her way to answer senators' questions.
"Dean Kagan has taken every conceivable step to meet with Republican Senators and to respond to their supplemental questions to her. Just this week she responded to a letter from the ranking Republican Senator on the committee with extensive written materials. Her answers during her hearing, in her written follow-up questions and then, again, in response to Senator Specter’s etter, were more thorough than any Solicitor General nominee in my memory," Leahy said.
By a vote of 61-31, the Senate confirmed Kagan’s nomination. Every Democrat present voted yes. Of Republicans present, 7 voted yes and 31 voted no. The end result is that Elena Kagan was confirmed to the post of U.S. solicitor general.