Inevitable: Kagan confirmed, 63-37; Video: Sessions's floor speech added

Let’s see which Republicans are getting primaried!

Five Republicans – Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, retiring Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, and Indiana’s Richard Lugar – have broken with their party to back Kagan. They’ve argued that partisanship should play no role in debates over the Supreme Court and have called Obama’s nominee qualified.

Still, it was clear that unlike in past decades – when high court nominees enjoyed the support of large majorities on both sides – party politics was driving the debate and vote on Kagan, much as it did last year when the Senate considered Obama’s first pick, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and former President George W. Bush’s two nominees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

Lugar and Snowe are both up in 2012. So is Ben Nelson, the lone Democratic no vote, who’s so desperate to undo the political damage from the Cornhusker Kickback that he might as well go ahead and switch parties already. Truth be told, though, the final margin here was kabuki in the same way that the final votes on ObamaCare were kabuki: Once the margin needed for passage was secured, everyone else was free to vote however they needed to in order to protect themselves at the polls. The GOP clearly didn’t want to risk a filibuster on someone as bland as Kagan, preferring to preserve the novelty of the nuclear option for maximum effect in case The One nominates a bombthrower next time, so people like Scott Brown got to vote no today even though I bet he would have been a yes had Reid really needed him. Speaking of which, why did Scotty B. vote no? Looks like he’s more worried about a tea-party primary challenge at this point than he is about pissing off centrist Massachusetts Dems in the general. Eeenteresting.

With Stevens gone, the oldest justice on the Court now is Ginsburg at 77. Which means it might be awhile yet before we get a truly atomic confirmation hearing involving The One trying to replace a Republican appointee. Apres Ruth, le deluge.

Update: Here’s Sessions’s last stand. He’s … not a Kagan fan.