ELENA KAGAN | LONG DAY OF QUESTIONS
As senators ply her with hardballs and softballs, military issue flares up.
WSupreme Court nominee Elena Kagan maneuvered carefully through tough questioning on military recruitment at Harvard Law School, gun owners’ rights and free speech Tuesday, giving little ground to critics and drawing strong praise from Senate Democrats.
In a long day of questioning at a hearing that stretched into the evening, Kagan was pressed by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, for her decision as dean of Harvard Law to bar recruiters from the school’s career services office over the Pentagon’s policy against openly gay soldiers.
Sessions said he emerged from a heated back-and-forth with Kagan on the issue more “troubled” about her nomination than before.
Still, President Barack Obama’s nominee appeared in good shape to win Senate approval — barring a major gaffe — in time to take her seat before the court opens a new term in October. If confirmed, Kagan, 50, would succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
Under questioning by Sessions, Kagan said she was trying to balance Harvard’s nondiscrimination policy, which she believed “don’t ask, don’t tell” violated, with a federal law that required schools to give military recruiters equal access as a condition of eligibility for federal funds. She said she welcomed the military, and believed her policy of requiring recruiters to work through a student veterans group — first set by a predecessor — was a valid compromise.
Sessions called her version of events “disconnected from reality” and accused Kagan of defying federal law because of her strong opposition to the military’s treatment of homosexuals.
At least one Republican appeared to have a higher opinion of Kagan.
“Your stock really went up with me,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Kagan after she praised Miguel Es- With family members and friends behind her, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan fielded questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. trada, one of President George W. Bush’s failed judicial nominees.
Democrats were already in her corner. Said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island: “I think that Elena Kagan has been thorough and substantive in her answers.” He said she was “off to a great start.”
The committee called Kagan back today for a second and likely final day of questioning.
Kagan spoke favorably of televising Supreme Court proceedings. “It would be a great thing for the court, and it would be a great thing for the American people,” she said.
But the former law school dean, who once wrote a strongly worded article denouncing Supreme Court nominees for dodging questions at confirmation hearings, herself refused repeatedly to be pinned down on specific legal issues, her political views or even the passions that animate her to seek a place on the court.