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Congress: Kagan's big day

MSNBC.com's Carrie Dann previews the Kagan hearings, which begin today. "It's hard to find a political operative in the know, Republican or Democrat, who would place a bet against Elena Kagan's eventual confirmation as a Supreme Court justice. But her likely success as a nominee does not mean this week's debate over the former Harvard Law School dean and U.S. Solicitor General's confirmation to the high court isn't worth watching." More: "With the 2010 midterm elections approaching, both sides hope to use the hearings as a canvas on which to paint broad themes about their parties' governing philosophy."

"For weeks leading up to the start of Elena Kagan's Senate confirmation hearings Monday, Republicans have struggled to find a compelling line of attack to take against the Supreme Court nominee. But their efforts to wield an effective cudgel against President Obama's second nomination to the country's highest court have largely failed," the Washington Post says. "In a month of oil spills and Afghan tumult, the Kagan nomination is one effort that has gone seamlessly for the White House. In part, participants say, that is precisely because it has been overshadowed by a flood of other events that have consumed Congress and kept Republicans from mounting a more muscular front against her. But it is also a measure of how skilled operatives have become at managing the process -- and choosing nominees who are notable in part for their political blandness."

The AP: "Elena Kagan will be making the argument of her life on Monday when she faces a Senate panel on her confirmation to the Supreme Court. Kagan's chances are bright as she heads into a marathon week of high-pressure vetting before the Senate Judiciary Committee, pressing to portray herself as a mainstream, impartial addition to the court. She's set to break weeks of public silence Monday afternoon in sworn testimony before the panel. Democrats have more than enough votes to confirm her. Republicans have shown no inclination to try to block such a vote, although some conservative interest groups are urging them in increasingly vocal ways to do so."

Sunday's New York Times said the hearings could end up pitting Obama vs. John Roberts. "At Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the nominee is usually the star. But Elena Kagan may well be a supporting player in a drama featuring two men not even there: President Obama and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. With an eye on the midterm elections, Democrats will use Ms. Kagan's hearings, which begin Monday, to put the Roberts court on trial by painting it as beholden to corporate America. Republicans will put Mr. Obama on trial over what they view as his Big Government agenda, and will raise questions about whether Ms. Kagan, his solicitor general and former dean of Harvard Law School, is independent enough to keep that agenda in check."

NPR's Nina Totenberg: "The Senate Judiciary Committee opens hearings Monday on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. So far, Republican attempts to arouse controversy about Kagan have gained little traction, but this week marks the main event. Kagan's supporters admit privately that if there is a silver lining to the Gulf oil spill, it is that Kagan has been able to sail unscathed beneath the news radar screen for the seven weeks since her nomination. For more than a month, Republicans have been hurling themselves at the Kagan appointment, with about as much effect as hurling themselves at a brick wall. The critiques include her lack of judicial experience, her Clinton White House tenure and her deanship at Harvard Law School. All preview the GOP lines of attack."