By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Compared to the first day of hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, which was mostly uneventful, conservative lawmakers are expected to subject her to much more high-powered questioning today on a variety of hot-button issues from abortion to homosexual rights.
Fox News is reporting that Kagan opened yesterday’s hearings with a statement in which she said all the right things. She pledged to do her best to consider “every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle and in accordance with law” if appointed as the next Supreme Court justice and said the court must ensure that “our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals.”
“But the court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people,” she said, adding that her past work in government public service has shown her that, in her words, “no one has a monopoly on truth and wisdom.”
“I will make no pledges this week other than this one — that if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons,” she said. “I will listen hard, to every party before the court and to each of my colleagues.”
The only indication yesterday of impending storms on the horizon came from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who voiced “serious concerns” about her nomination during his opening remarks.
Sessions noted that Kagan has “never tried a case before a jury” and “has associated herself with well-known activist judges.” He also maintained that she broke the law in denying military recruiters access to students at Harvard Law School, where she served as dean.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), shared Sessions’ concerns, saying he found some of the nominee’s past actions and writings “a bit disturbing.” He called her temporary ban on military recruiting at Harvard “inappropriate.”
The hearings are expected to get more testy today with conservatives intending to grill Kagan on all of the hot-button issues, from abortion to campaign finance to homosexual rights, while arguing that she will bring her long history of liberal activism to the court.
Worries about Kagan becoming a judicial activist once she is seated on the bench were only enhanced by records of her past praise for retired Israeli judge Aharon Barak, a liberal judge well known for his activism and expansive notion of judicial powers.
Robert Bork, the 1997 nominee to the Supreme Court, said Kagan’s praise of Barak was enough to disqualify her, and told Politico he considered Barak to have been “the worst judge on the planet.”
Kagan, who is Jewish, has also run afoul of the Rabbinical Alliance of America who called her “non-kosher” because of her support for abortion laws.
Even though conservative Senators have not eliminated the option of a filibuster to block Kagan’s nomination, she is expected to be confirmed.
Her nomination will not change the current balance of power on the court.
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