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Kagan warns that Supreme Court may not have a swing vote anymore

The Hill logo The Hill 10/6/2018 Justin Wise
FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2017 file photo, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan speaks at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, in Chicago. © AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2017 file photo, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan speaks at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, in Chicago.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said Friday she fears the high court may lack a justice going forward who would serve as a swing-vote on cases, speaking hours after President Trump's second nominee Brett Kavanaugh secured enough votes to be confirmed.

Kagan said at a conference for women at Princeton University that over the past three decades, starting with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and continuing with Justice Anthony Kennedy, that there was a figure on the bench "who found the center or people couldn't predict in that sort of way."

"It's not so clear, that I think going forward, that sort of middle position - it's not so clear whether we'll have it," Kagan said.

"All of us need to be aware of that - every single one of us - and to realize how precious the court's legitimacy is," she added. "It's an incredibly important thing for the court to guard is this reputation of being impartial, being neutral and not being simply extension of a terribly polarizing process."

Kagan, an appointee of former President Obama, spoke Friday alongside fellow Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who also hails from the Supreme Court's liberal bloc.

Her comments came hours after it became clear that Kavanaugh, Trump's pick to succeed the retiring Kennedy, had enough votes to be confirmed.

Kennedy cast the deciding vote on several high-profile cases before the Supreme Court, and his retirement announcement earlier this year left many on the left voicing concerns that the court would lack a swing-vote going forward.

The Senate voted earlier Friday to end debate on Kavanaugh's nomination, setting up a final vote on his nomination for Saturday afternoon, capping off weeks of controversy surrounding allegations of sexual assault.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced Friday that she would vote for Kavanaugh, giving him enough support to get confirmed. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is running for reelection this year in a state Trump won by 42 points in 2016, also said he would vote for Kavanaugh.

The announcements came about a week after Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his first accuser, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Ford's claims that he sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the early 1980s.

Kavanaugh fiercely denied the accusation. He's also denied sexual misconduct claims from multiple other women, Julie Swetnick and Deborah Ramirez.

GOP senators said earlier this week that an FBI probe into Kavanaugh found no corroboration for sexual misconduct allegations against him. Democratic senators have blasted the investigation, calling it inadequate.

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