Senators from GOP to oppose Kagan

McConnell, Hatch doubt impartiality

By Laura Litvan
Bloomberg News / July 3, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans began lining up against US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, as minority leader Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch revealed they will vote against President Obama’s second appointee to the court.

McConnell said yesterday Kagan failed to convince him during confirmation hearings that she can become an impartial judge and abandon a political past that includes working for Bill Clinton when he was president.

“I do not have confidence that if she were confirmed to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court she would suddenly constrain the ardent political advocacy that has marked much of her adult life,’’ said McConnell, of Kentucky.

Hatch, of Utah, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he “cannot ignore disturbing situations’’ in which Kagan’s personal opinions appeared to drive her legal views.

On Thursday, the judiciary committee, with 12 Democrats and seven Republicans, completed four days of hearings on Kagan’s nomination.

The panel will vote on whether to recommend her later this month and set the stage for action by the full Senate well before the Supreme Court begins its next term in October. Democrats control 58 of the Senate’s 100 seats, practically ensuring Kagan’s confirmation.

Hatch is the first of the committee’s Republicans to announce his stand on the nomination. He voted in favor of Kagan last year when Obama appointed her as the first woman to be US solicitor general, the administration’s top courtroom lawyer.

Another Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, also revealed her opposition to Kagan’s confirmation. Murkowski, who supports abortion rights and has worked across party lines on energy and some other issues, said Kagan lacks experience. She also said Kagan’s answers to many questions at the hearings were “not terribly revealing and in many cases evasive.’’

McConnell has been raising concerns about Kagan’s views on issues such as corporate campaign contributions and gun rights since she was nominated on May 10. Hatch signaled his opposition to Kagan in a floor speech last week. He also opposed the nomination last year of Sonia Sotomayor, Obama’s first appointment to the Supreme Court.

Kagan, 50, was nominated to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who has retired from the nine-member court. She is a former dean of Harvard Law School and worked for four years in Clinton’s White House as a lawyer and policy adviser.

In a statement, Hatch said Kagan’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee and her record suggest she would be an activist judge. She also lacks the experience to serve on the high court, he said.

“Supreme Court justices who, like General Kagan, had no prior judicial experience did have an average of 21 years in private legal practice,’’ he said. “General Kagan has two. The fact that her experience is instead academic and political only magnifies my emphasis on judicial philosophy as the most important qualification for judicial service.’’

He said he was particularly concerned that, as an aide to Clinton, Kagan promoted the administration’s “extreme position on abortion,’’ including support for a procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion.

GOP Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma had previously said he would oppose Kagan’s confirmation,

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, set July 13 for a panel vote on Kagan’s nomination. Republicans can delay that for a week to allow more time to review her record.