Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, faces a potential grilling by Republicans as she begins her Senate confirmation hearing on Monday even as Obama rejected as “pretty thin gruel” arguments advanced by her critics.
President Barack Obama has confronted a Republican wall of opposition much of this election year. But at least a few members of the opposition party are expected to join Democrats and approve his nomination of Kagan, 50, to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, 90, the court’s leading liberal.
Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee that will hold the hearings, made it clear that Kagan can expect tough questioning on whether she has what it takes to be a Supreme Court justice.
“This is a confirmation, not a coronation,” said Sessions, appearing on Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“She has the least experience of any nominee at least in the last 50 years,” Sessions said.
Kagan has served the past year as Obama’s U.S. solicitor general. In that post she represented the U.S. government in cases before the court she now seeks to join. She earlier served as Harvard Law School’s first woman dean, and in the 1990s was an attorney in the Clinton White House.
If confirmed, Kagan would be the first new member of the Supreme Court in nearly 40 years who has never been a judge.
“As I examine some of the arguments that have been floated against her nomination over the last several weeks, it’s pretty thin gruel,” Obama told reporters at the end of the Group of 20 summit in Toronto on Sunday.
“Having said that, I expect that my Republican colleagues and my Democratic colleagues should ask her tough questions, listen to her testimony, go through the record, go through all the documents that have been provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and then vote their conscience,” Obama added.
‘A BRILLIANT WOMAN’
Republican critics question if Kagan is more driven by politics than law. But Democratic backers call her a perfect fit for the highest U.S. court.
Her nationally broadcast Senate confirmation hearing is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who will preside over the anticipated five-day hearing, accuses Kagan’s opponents of “grasping for straws.”
Noting Kagan will answer critics at her hearing, Leahy told CBS TV’s “Face the Nation”: “You’re going to see a brilliant woman, a brilliant legal mind, and you’re going to see somebody who is going to be the 112th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
With Democrats and Republicans jockeying for position in advance of the November congressional elections, Republicans are poised to portray Kagan as placing her opinions above the law and the Obama administration as favoring big government.