Thursday, May 13, 2010
US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan began the first of a long series of meetings with US Senators on Capitol Hill yesterday. Kagan met with eight leading Senate leaders on Wednesday, including Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada), Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Jeff Sessions (R-Illinois); she continued the meetings with seven additional Senators on Thursday. Senator Reid called her “the right choice to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court”, while McConnell hoped “that the Obama administration doesn’t think the ideal Supreme Court nominee is someone who would rubber-stamp its policies.”
It is currently unclear what the meetings mean for Kagan: Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) guessed that around half of the Senate’s 100 members already have strong opinions about the nominee. Some Republicans are worried about her move to block military recruiters from Harvard University‘s campus to protest the federal “Don’t ask” policy against openly gay and lesbian members of the US military. Kagan’s background is also of concern to some. If confirmed, she would be the first US Supreme Court Justice without ever having held a judicial position in 38 years. Kagan, currently the US Solicitor General, spent much of her early career as a professor of law and the dean of the Harvard Law School. She was previously nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit in 1999, but the nomination was unsuccessful.
However, the nominee is also gathering support from both Republicans and Democrats. Despite her controversial decision at Harvard, Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) said Thursday that he found Kagan to support the military, after meeting with her. In addition, Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that she does not believe Kagan’s “lack of judicial experience in any way disqualifies her” to the position. Neither Senator, however, has committed to supporting Kagan yet, choosing to wait until after confirmation hearings finish this summer. On the other hand, the Washington Post estimates that Kagan will pass the Senate, if only because of the Democratic majority that currently exists there. Most, if not all Democrats are expected to vote for Kagan.
The 50-year-old lawyer was nominated to the highest court in the United States by President Barack Obama on Monday, after current Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement earlier. Kagan is seen as a moderate, having been criticized by both left– and right-wing politicians, although “she’s identified with the American liberal position”, according to Sessions.