Elena Kagan's Supreme Court quest cleared a critical hurdle Tuesday when the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed her nomination in a 13-6 vote.
If she is confirmed by the Senate as expected early in August, the nine-member court will have four Democratic appointees for the first time since 1971.
The approval was near party-line, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joining the majority Democrats.
A former Harvard Law dean and U.S. solicitor general, Kagan's endorsement leaves many Republicans frustrated because she has never been a judge and spent most of her career in academia or in policy-making posts in Democratic administrations.
Second Amendment advocates were also left frustrated by Kagan's oblique responses to questions regarding her views about the right to bear arms. Kagan did, however, tell senators that an individual's right to bear arms under the Second Amendment is "settled law."
The National Rifle Association claims this response is a smokescreen, and warns it will campaign against any Kagan supporter who faces re-election in the years ahead.
"Everything in her background suggests a vote for Elena Kagan is a vote against gun rights," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA's lobbying arm.
There is reason for concern. Kagan helped shape gun control policy as an adviser in the Clinton administration, and wrote "I'm not sympathetic" in a 1987 memo to Justice Thurgood Marshall in a case involving a gun-rights claim.
Despite pressure from the NRA and other groups opposing Kagan, her confirmation appears to be a slam-dunk, according to
Patricia Murphy, Capitol Hill Bureau Chief for The Capitolist.
In the full Senate, she notes, Kagan's nomination will go before a heavily Democratic chamber, where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 59-41.
"With 60 votes needed to move her nomination forward, at least two Republicans, Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, have praised Kagan in the past and are poised to make the 60-vote threshold easy for Kagan to reach," Murphy writes.