President Barack Obama on Monday nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, declaring she would demonstrate the same independence, integrity and passion for the law exhibited by retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. If confirmed by the Senate, Kagan would become the third woman on the high court. Obama introduced her in the White House East Room as "my friend." The former Harvard Law School dean "is widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost legal minds," Obama said. Kagan, 50, said she was "honored and humbled by this nomination." She called it "the honor of a lifetime." "I look forward to working with the Senate and thank you, Mr. President, for this honor of a lifetime." Obama cited what he called Kagan's "openness to a broad array of viewpoints" and her "fairmindedness." In a statement issued before Kagan had completed her remarks, the lawmaker who will preside over her confirmation hearing, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said, "The Senate should confirm Ms. Kagan before" Labor Day. "Our constituents deserve a civil and thoughtful debate on this nomination, followed by an up-or-down vote," he said.