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Kagan Finishes Hearings with Praise from Both Parties, and ‘Concern’ From Republicans

Posted Jun 30, 2010 6:48 PM CDT
By Mark Walsh

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Corrected: The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday evening finished its questioning of Elena Kagan, with Republicans continuing several lines of attack but appearing unlikely to derail her confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., praised Kagan’s legal mind and openness.

“I really wish I could be back in law school taking a course with you,” Leahy said at the end of the day. He had earlier announced that the hearing would go into the usual closed-door session Wednesday evening with the nominee to go over background reports and other confidential matters.

The hearing will resume Thursday at 4 p.m. ET to hear panels of witnesses, including representatives of the American Bar Association.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the committee, had some final criticisms of Kagan but stopped short of saying he would vote against her nomination.

“With regard to Harvard and the military, I am concerned overall with the way you described what happened, suggesting it wasn’t that big a deal,” Sessions said. “Our nominee is a person of skill and intelligence [but] the combination of her record and statements here leave me uneasy.”

As her questioning drew to a close, Kagan told Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who also aggressively questioned her on several issues, that the hearing had been terrific.

“I’ve found it somewhat wearying, but I think it has been a great moment in my life,” Kagan said.

Coburn said, “As it said in the paper today, you kind of light up a room, and I agree with that.”

On a day when Republicans pressed Kagan on a number of issues, including gay rights, judicial review of congressional actions, and abortion, Democrats largely limited their questioning.

Kagan and Sen. Coburn had a lively exchange toward the end of the day over the idea of restoring confidence to the judiciary. Coburn suggested that Americans’ liberty had eroded over the last 30 years, and that the new health care bill was the latest incursion on their freedoms.

“A lot of Americans are losing confidence because they are losing liberty,” Coburn said. “Should we be trying to right the ship so we can rebuild that confidence?”

“I believe that confidence in our institutions is terribly important,” Kagan said. “I do think the job of a Supreme Court justice is to decide cases, and that in deciding cases, it’s not to think about big questions like restoring confidence.”

That was a job for institutions like the U.S. Senate, she said.

Kagan news from ABAJournal.com:

Kagan Coverage Roundup: Day 3

GOP Takes 2nd Round: ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ Military Recruiting (Podcast) Sessions to Kagan: Tell Us About Appealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Cases

Today’s Metaphors: Kagan Advises Democrats About Being an Actor and an Umpire

GOP Expects to Press Kagan Further as Panel Weighs Schedule Over Byrd’s Funeral

Coburn to Kagan: ‘How Are You Going to Take Off Your Liberal Hat?’

GOP Takes Aim at Kagan’s Record, But She Has Breezy Conversation with Graham (Podcast)

Wait Until Law School to Write About Law, Kagan Tells Grassley

‘You’ll get Justice Kagan, You Won’t Get Justice Marshall’

Kagan Faces Early Squabbling Over Harvard Law School’s Policy of Handling Military Recruiters

Kagan Hearings Coverage Roundup: Day 1

Kagan Hearing Podcast: Busy Day at the Court and On the Hill

GOP Opens Its Offense Against Kagan’s Political Stances, Military Recruitment and Legal Heroes

Busy Morning at the High Court; Big Decisions, Farewells and Scrutiny of the Court’s Latest Nominee

Senators Begin Opening Statements at Kagan Confirmation Hearing

Corrected July 1 to correctly indicate that Coburn is from Oklahoma.

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