Political Notebook

Lugar is 2d Republican in Senate to back Kagan

July 22, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Senator Richard Lugar, breaking with the GOP on an election-year Supreme Court nomination, yesterday became the second in his party to say he would vote to confirm Elena Kagan as a justice.

The Indiana Republican’s announcement could lead to a trickle of support among the Senate’s band of GOP moderates. Kagan is already on track to be confirmed early next month, with Democrats having more than enough votes to push through her nomination. Republican foes have shown little inclination — despite pressure from conservative groups — to block the move through a filibuster on President Obama’s choice to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired.

In a statement, Lugar said he had carefully followed Kagan’s confirmation hearing testimony and the debate about her nomination, including recommendations from his constituents, and said she is up to the job.

“I have concluded that Solicitor General Elena Kagan is clearly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and that she has demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of court history and decisions,’’ Lugar said.

He also said Kagan has had a “distinguished career’’ in education and public service and is well regarded by the legal community and her peers.

Most Republicans argue that Kagan, former dean of Harvard Law School and current US solicitor general, would seek to impose a liberal political agenda on the Supreme Court, moving to expand abortion rights, sanction gay marriage, and curb gun rights, among other things.

On Tuesday, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina became the first Republican senator to say he would join Democrats in backing Kagan. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

RNC accuses Steele of concealing $7m in debt
WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee’s treasurer has accused chairman Michael Steele of hiding more than $7 million in debt to inflate the party’s finances and mislead donors.

Two lawyers working for the committee insisted the RNC never had that kind of debt and has been honest in reporting its finances.

The accusations, made in a memo to RNC budget committee members Tuesday, were the latest challenge to the embattled Steele and his stewardship of the committee. RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen amended Federal Election Commission reports to show some $3.3 million in debt for April and $3.8 million for May. The RNC, which had crowed about having zero debt, had more than $2 million in debt at the end of June, according to FEC reports filed Tuesday.

In the memo, Pullen said “fund-raising has been falling well short of budgeted numbers’’ but the RNC also saw increases in the bank account.

“The explanation for this was the RNC was doing a great job of controlling expenses,’’ Pullen wrote in his memo. “This on the surface seemed reasonable; however, I reviewed April and May check registers in May and noted what seemed to be an increasing number of invoices with dates from prior months.’’

In other words, the RNC simply was not paying its bills on time as if to make it look as though it had more cash. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate votes to extend jobless benefits to millions
WASHINGTON — As expected, the Senate voted, 59 to 39, yesterday to restore jobless benefits to millions who have been out of work for more than six months. House leaders say they will ratify the measure today and send it on to the White House.

President Obama is expected to quickly sign the bill, which would authorize states to provide retroactive support to an estimated 2.5 million people who have seen their unemployment checks cut off since federal benefits expired June 2. John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, voted in favor of the bill; his GOP counterpart, Scott Brown, opposed it. -- WASHINGTON POST