Judiciary Committee Members React to Elena Kagan Nomination


Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT)*

“I congratulate Elena Kagan on her nomination to the Supreme Court.  The President chose from an impressive list of superbly qualified candidates.  He consulted with Senators on both sides of the aisle, and with others.  As a scholar of the Constitution himself, he brought a wealth of knowledge and insight to his selection process.  He wanted to select an outstanding future Justice who is well within the mainstream of legal and constitutional thought, and her recent Senate confirmation to be Solicitor General of the United States would appear to support that.

Just over a year ago, the Senate considered Elena Kagan’s impressive legal credentials when we confirmed her to be the Solicitor General of the United States.  The person filling that vital post is informally referred to as the “tenth Justice,” because the Solicitor General works so closely on the significant cases before the Supreme Court.  Solicitor General Kagan has argued a broad range of issues, including in defense of Congress’ ability to protect children from pedophiles and our ability to fight against those who provide material support to terrorist organizations.

With this nomination, Elena Kagan follows in the footsteps of her mentor, Thurgood Marshall, who also was nominated to the Supreme Court from the position of Solicitor General.  Ms. Kagan broke the glass ceiling when she was appointed as the first woman to serve as Solicitor General and also previously when she became the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School.  Her historic accomplishments and the way she has conducted herself in these positions has earned her a place at the top of the legal profession.”

Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL)*

“I congratulate Solicitor General Kagan on her nomination to the Supreme Court. The president’s announcement today allows the Judiciary Committee to move forward with the work of carefully compiling and reviewing Ms. Kagan’s record, a constitutional responsibility that must be carried out with thoughtful deliberation on behalf of the American people.

“Although the Committee is familiar with Ms. Kagan from her previous nomination as Solicitor General, a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is a far more significant position. Accordingly, her nomination merits a fresh review based on different criteria. It is unwise to make a judgment on her nomination until that evaluation is conducted.

“We know that several areas warrant close scrutiny. Ms. Kagan’s lack of judicial experience and short time as Solicitor General, arguing just six cases before the Court, is troubling. The public expects Supreme Court nominees to possess a mastery of the law, a sound judicial philosophy, and a demonstrated dedication to the impartial application of the law and the Constitution. With no judicial opinions to consider, it will be especially important that other aspects of her record exhibit these characteristics.

“Also deserving review is her decision as dean of Harvard Law School to personally and aggressively restrict the U.S. military’s ability to recruit some of the brightest law students in the country because Dean Kagan opposed President Clinton’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.”

John Cornyn (R-TX)*

"Now that President Obama has nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Senate must provide its advice and consent.   It is essential that the Senate perform this Constitutional duty in a thorough manner and give Ms. Kagan’s record a full and fair review.

"There is no doubt that Ms. Kagan possesses a first-rate intellect, but she is a surprising choice from a president who has emphasized the importance of understanding ‘how the world works and how ordinary people live.’  Ms. Kagan has spent her entire professional career in Harvard Square, Hyde Park, and the DC Beltway.  These are not places where one learns ‘how ordinary people live.’  Ms. Kagan is likewise a surprising choice because she lacks judicial experience.  Most Americans believe that prior judicial experience is a necessary credential for a Supreme Court Justice.

"If confirmed as a life-tenured justice, Ms. Kagan’s rulings could affect the life, liberty, and property of Americans for generations.  So we must learn completely about her judicial philosophy and commitment to our founding principles.  And we must ensure that she rejects judicial activism and holds fast to the belief that justice is blind.”

Ben Cardin (D-MD)*

“I welcome President Obama’s announcement today that he intends to nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court. As Solicitor General, a position often called the tenth justice, she would bring a unique, firsthand perspective to the court, along with a lifetime of broad legal experience.  I appreciate the serious consideration behind President Obama’s appointment and its promptness, which will give us ample time to review the nomination in a thoughtful and fair manner.  It is our responsibility to ensure timely consideration of the nomination and a civil debate.

“It is a privilege to be among those Senators on the Judiciary Committee who will have an opportunity to participate in the confirmation hearing for a new Supreme Court Justice and to publicly question Solicitor General Kagan.  If confirmed, she will potentially serve on the Supreme Court for a generation and, inherently, will have a profound impact on the lives of all Americans.

“My hope is that the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court will be able to help build consensus on this closely divided court in a way Justice Stevens epitomized.  As I said to President Obama during our recent call, I also believe the next justice should be a leader with broad experiences who will uphold the precedents of the court and has a passion for protections found in our Constitution. Should she be confirmed, Solicitor General Kagan need only look as far as her clerk experience with Justice Thurgood Marshall and Judge Abner Mikvah for models to exemplify.”

Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

"Solicitor General Kagan has a strong academic background in the law.  I have been generally pleased with her job performance as Solicitor General, particularly regarding legal issues related to the War on Terror.  I look forward to meeting her again, this time to discuss her qualifications to sit on the highest court in the land.

"As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I intend to be fair and firm in my questioning of the nominee.  The hearings can be a valuable public service as they give us a window into the nominee’s judicial philosophy and disposition.  I hope we will have a meaningful opportunity to explore the qualifications, judicial temperament, and judicial philosophy of Ms. Kagan."

Ted Kaufman (D-DE)

"In nominating Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, President Obama has selected someone with impeccable credentials and a record of excellence and integrity.  Equally important, Ms. Kagan‘s experience at the White House, in the Senate, as a law school dean, and as Solicitor General will serve her well on the Court.  As dean, she was lauded by faculty, students, and alumni across the political spectrum for her ability to bridge disagreement by listening to all sides of an argument, engaging honestly with everyone concerned, and making decisions openly and with sound reasons.  She will bring her ability to build coalitions to a Supreme Court that is too often divided, which will serve the American people well.

“On a personal note, I want to add that earlier in her career Ms. Kagan served on then-Senator Biden’s Judiciary Committee staff in connection with the nomination to the Supreme Court of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I had the good fortune to get to know her in that context when I was then-Senator Biden’s chief of staff.  Based on that experience and everything I have seen since, I am absolutely convinced that she not only possesses enormous intellect and consummate skill, but is a person of the highest character and unquestioned integrity.”

Jon Kyl (R-AZ)**

“As I made clear when I supported her confirmation as Solicitor General, a temporary political appointment is far different than a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” Kyl, the Senate GOP whip and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

In the statement, Kyl also said that each senator “has a constitutional duty to scrutinize judicial nominees, and I will take great care in examining her record to ensure that she possess the qualities the American people expect in our Supreme Court Justices. I expect Senate Democrats will allow ample time for the Senate to conduct this vetting process.”

Herb Kohl (D-WI)

“Elena Kagan appears to be a well-qualified choice.  We look forward to reviewing her as a nominee to the Supreme Court and getting a window into her judicial philosophy and legal views during the upcoming hearings.  In light of her critique of Supreme Court confirmation hearings as often times a ‘vapid and hollow charade, in which repetition of platitudes has replaced discussion of viewpoints and personal anecdotes have supplanted legal analysis,’ we certainly do hope that she will provide us with substantive and meaningful insight into the kind of Supreme Court Justice she would be.  I will once again convene my bipartisan Supreme Court Task Force to evaluate Elena Kagan’s record and qualifications.”

Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

“Now that the President has nominated Elena Kagan to replace Justice Stevens, the Senate must thoroughly and fairly evaluate her qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice. Judicial qualifications go beyond legal experience; any Supreme Court nominee should have an impressive resume. The more important qualification is judicial philosophy and a nominee’s understanding of the power and proper role of a Justice in our system of government.

“I will examine Ms. Kagan’s entire record to understand her judicial philosophy. My conclusion will be based on evidence, not blind faith. Her previous confirmation, and my support for her in that position, do not by themselves establish either her qualifications for the Supreme Court or my obligation to support her. I have an open mind and look forward to actively participating in the confirmation process.”

Russ Feingold (D-WI)

“I congratulate Elena Kagan on her nomination to the United States Supreme Court.  I welcome President Obama’s decision to nominate someone to be the first Supreme Court justice from outside the judiciary since former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Lewis Powell.  Ms. Kagan’s confirmation in 2009 as the first woman to become Solicitor General was an historic moment for our nation.  As Solicitor General, Ms. Kagan has served the nation ably.  Considering the impact the Supreme Court has on our country, I take very seriously my responsibility as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to evaluate a nominee. I look forward to reviewing thoroughly Ms. Kagan’s record, meeting with her and questioning her during what I hope will be a productive and informative confirmation process.”

Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

“A lifetime appointment requires a thorough vetting and I expect Elena Kagan to receive fair, respectful and deliberative consideration.  The Constitution gives the Senate a tremendous responsibility to carefully review the President’s nominees to the Supreme Court.   The Judiciary Committee must take time to ensure that the nominee will be true to the Constitution and apply the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences.  With no judicial experience, it becomes even more important that we ask thorough questions to determine that Ms. Kagan truly understands the constitutional role of a Supreme Court justice.”

Arlen Specter (D-PA)

“There is no doubt that Elena Kagan has exemplary academic and professional credentials.  And she has been a pioneer for women, serving as the country’s first female Solicitor General and as the first woman to be Dean of Harvard Law School.  I applaud the President for nominating someone who has a varied and diverse background outside the circuit court of appeals.

"I voted against her for Solicitor General because she wouldn’t answer basic questions about her standards for handling that job.  It is a distinctly different position than that of a Supreme Court Justice.

“I have an open mind about her nomination and hope she will address important questions related to her position on matters such as executive power, warrantless wiretapping, a woman’s right to choose, voting rights and congressional power."

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

“The Constitution grants the Senate the solemn duty of providing advice and consent on nominations to the Supreme Court.  I take this responsibility extremely seriously.  Solicitor General Elena Kagan has a strong track record as one of the nation’s top legal scholars, and as a leader with a special skill for bringing people together.  I look forward to learning more about her judicial philosophy through the Senate Judiciary Committee’s open hearing process, which I believe is an important opportunity for the public to hear directly from the nominee and shape their own views about her judicial expertise and temperament. 

I am also very pleased that the President announced his nomination of Solicitor General Kagan in early May.  Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sotomayor were both confirmed in 72 days – that timeline would allow us to consider the nomination on the floor the third week of July.  It’s pretty clear to me that this nomination needs to be considered by the Senate in a timely manner because we will need to move on to considering other critical matters like the ratification of the START Treaty, the annual appropriations bills, a new jobs package, food safety, and other pending legislative priorities.”

Dick Durbin (D-IL)

“I applaud President Obama’s decision to nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Ms. Kagan is a remarkable lawyer who has worked in private practice, clerked for Illinois’ own Judge Abner Mikva and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, served as a Senate staff member and worked in the Executive Branch. She has also blazed a trail for women in America -­ not only as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School but also as the first woman to serve as our nation’s Solicitor General.

President Obama said he wanted someone on the high court who understood the impact of the law on average Americans, and I believe the depth and breadth of Ms. Kagan’s will allow her that perspective.

I look forward to hearing Ms. Kagan’s testimony in the Judiciary Committee. I hope and expect she will receive quick confirmation in the United States Senate.”

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

"Solicitor General Kagan has a reputation for great intellect, legal expertise, and an ability to bridge ideological divides," said Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for Rhode Island. "And, if confirmed, Ms. Kagan, a trailblazer throughout her career, would be the third woman on the current Court — a historic high. I look forward to reviewing her record and participating in her confirmation hearing later this year."

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

“As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I look forward to considering Solicitor General Kagan’s nomination. A Supreme Court Justice should demonstrate an independent breadth of mind and character, with an open-minded, fair approach to the facts and the law.

“Solicitor General Kagan is extremely intelligent, and she would bring a wide variety of legal experience to the bench – she’s spent time in government, in private practice, as a professor, and as the first woman dean of her law school.

“Over the years, she has developed a reputation as a person who brings people together despite their ideological differences. She has shown herself to be a true leader. Like former Chief Justice Rehnquist, she comes to the court with experiences different than those of a judge.  I think it is healthy for the Court to have at least one Justice from outside of what has been termed the ‘judicial monastery.’”

“I look forward to meeting with her and reviewing her nomination. I also look forward to a fair and civil nomination process.”

Al Franken (D-MN)

“Elena Kagan is a brilliant and superbly qualified nominee.  As the former Dean of Harvard Law School and first woman to be Solicitor General of the United States, she will bring a diverse background of impressive experiences to the bench.  She has a record of bringing together people with a wide range of viewpoints.  And importantly, Kagan is a nominee from outside the “judicial monastery”—that is one of her greatest strengths as a nominee.

“But just as it’s important for Supreme Court justices to have a diversity of legal backgrounds, it’s also thrilling to see the Court begin to reflect the reality of our diverse population. I’m pleased the President has chosen to nominate another woman to the Court, and one who has been confirmed for office by members of both political parties should be confirmed without unnecessary difficulty.

“I feel honored to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court Justice are among our greatest responsibilities, and once again I will prepare for them with care. As with Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation, I will be seeking the opinions of some of Minnesota’s best legal minds before I ask my questions.”

*Some statements are only key excerpts due to length.

**credit: LegalTimes

(credit image – reuters)


Leave a comment

Filed under Supreme Court

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s