May 13th, 2010
12:55 PM ET
8 years ago

Moderate Republicans back Kagan on hot-button issues

ALT TEXT Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan meets Thursday with Sen. Arlen Specter. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)
. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

(Updated at 5:16 p.m. ET)

Washington (CNN) - Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan received critical cover from moderate Republicans on Thursday on two issues likely to dominate her upcoming confirmation hearings: gays in the military and judicial experience.

Kagan has been strongly criticized by GOP leaders for her efforts to block military recruiters from Harvard University during her time as the school's law school dean because of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The policy, opposed by President Barack Obama, prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.

Top Republicans have also highlighted the fact that Kagan has never served as a federal judge, something that distinguishes her from all nine current members of the high court.

If party moderates break from the GOP leadership on these issues, it dramatically increases Kagan's chances of overcoming a possible filibuster and winning confirmation as the country's 112th Supreme Court justice.

Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown - who broke the Democrats' 60-member filibuster-proof majority by winning the late Ted Kennedy's seat in January - said after meeting with Kagan that he is satisfied she supports members of the military.

"It was the first question I actually asked her because, having been in the military, I had concerns about [her] position at Harvard," Brown said.

"It was very clear to me, after we spoke about it at length, that she is supportive of the men and women who are fighting to protect us and very supportive of the military as a whole. I do not feel that her judicial philosophy will not hurt the men and women who are serving."

While serving as dean at Harvard Law, Kagan said she "abhorred" the military's "discriminatory recruitment policy." She called it "a profound wrong - a moral injustice of the first order."

Kagan supported other schools' challenges to a federal law requiring that recruiters be given equal access or face the loss of federal funding. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law in 2006.

Earlier in the day, Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins said she doesn't have any concerns about Kagan's experience. She also said she didn't see any "extraordinary circumstances" that could lead her to join a potential filibuster against Kagan.

Collins noted that Kagan told her she considers Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion, to be settled law. Kagan herself has remained tight-lipped when asked such questions from reporters.

The support of Brown and Collins alone, combined with a unified Democratic caucus, would be enough to ensure Kagan's confirmation.

In addition to meeting with Brown and Collins on Thursday, Kagan stopped by the offices of five key Senate Democrats: Massachusetts' John Kerry, New York's Chuck Schumer, Maryland's Ben Cardin, Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter.

Specter said Kagan may be open to the idea of allowing television coverage of Supreme Court hearings.

"She said it'd be helpful to the public and to the court," he said. "This was the best answer I've gotten" from any recent Supreme Court candidate.

Specter is a staunch advocate of allowing television cameras into the high court. Most justices, however, have adamantly opposed the idea.

Specter also said Kagan stood by comments she made in 1995, when she dismissed the confirmation hearing process as a "charade."

Kagan's meeting with Specter attracted considerable attention because of his political troubles. Specter - who is facing a tough primary fight next week - voted against Kagan for solicitor general before switching from the Republican to the Democratic party.

Specter has not said how he will vote on her Supreme Court nomination. Some political observers have speculated that his previous opposition to Kagan, combined with an unwillingness to immediately back her now, could undercut his support with stalwart Democrats. A quick declaration in favor of Kagan, on the other hand, could strike some voters as political opportunism.

Kagan kicked off her Capitol Hill meetings on Wednesday, visiting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. She also met with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the committee's top Republican.

Obama nominated Kagan on Monday to replace Stevens. If confirmed, she would become the third woman on the current nine-member bench and the fourth woman in the court's history.

- CNN's Ted Barrett and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.

Filed under: Arlen Specter • Elena Kagan • Popular Posts • Scott Brown • Supreme Court • Susan Collins
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. File under "Sarcasm"

    Isn't it nice that they can all sit around and have coffee and cookies and not ask a single tough question on what Kagan's judicial philosophy and principles are. They'd probably give her more scrutiny she was applying for the job of White House Social Secretary. Oops, I forgot you only have to be a social butterfly to get that job.

    May 13, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    What a wonderful world it would be if everybody had the same judicial philosophy and principles, NOT. But what would be wonderful if we all had the accomplishments and education of President Obama and Kagan. Just think if we all had the intelligence and achievements in life as our President we wouldn't be insanely jealous with hate.

    May 13, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Duck Fallas

    The President isn't stacking the court with liberals. He's stacking the court with ugly.

    May 13, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Eric

    Did she bring her postage-stamp sized resume with her?

    May 13, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  5. buckwheat

    Is she Rachel Maddow`s mom?....

    May 13, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. demmie

    how can someone make a statement that she would be fair and independant? That is just a GUESS....not even an educated guess b/c there is nothing for them to go on... she has done NOTHING

    May 13, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. doug

    Ha ha, in no way would a republican nominee have a chance if he or she told a bunch of liberals, "you are not my people".

    Kagen seems to believe that if you speak the truth about Democrats it is called hate speech, and then the Messiah and his followers have the right to censor you.

    She wont let the people who fight for our freedom on the Harvard campus but lawyers who represent terrorists who try to kill Americans are welcomed.

    And then some socialists who live only by hate and lies say she isn't liberal enough. We know they are the biggest racists our nation has ever seen, the Thomas hearings and the message that if your skin is a certain color you don't have the right to choose your own beliefs made that undeniable!

    May 13, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. ATR

    The comments on this post are incredibly small minded. What do her looks have to do with anything? Would anyone comment on Justice Scalia's looks? No. Why? Because he is a man. Quit with the sexist B.S. Kagan is extremely qualified. How does your resume stack up?

    May 13, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Ben

    Claudia, Houston, TX – "But what would be wonderful if we all had the accomplishments and education of President Obama and Kagan. Just think if we all had the intelligence and achievements in life as our President we wouldn't be insanely jealous with hate"

    Uh, what are you smoking? What has either of those two clowns accomplished? NOTHING. Kagen has no judicial experience and Odumbo is the most inexperienced president in history. You're actually proud of this? If you are, you need to have your head examined.

    May 13, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. Chalk up one for Civility

    There is certainly a time and place for scrutiny and tough questions. But a "meet and greet" photo-op is not that time.

    There will be plenty of chances to grill Elena Kagan on her fitness for the job she's been nominated for. Nothing wrong with Senator Collins showing some class and being civil toward Kagan, though.

    May 13, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. In the West

    "Did she bring her postage-stamp sized resume with her?"

    So tell us Eric, what law school are you dean of? My guess is her resume looks far better than yours, and most of her detractors.....

    May 13, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  12. Fair is Fair

    "Just think if we all had the intelligence and achievements in life as our President we wouldn't be insanely jealous with hate."

    I should know better than to read comments like this shortly after eating. Now I have a pile of barf to clean up.

    May 13, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. Donna

    Whats ugly are some of the comments posted by obviously immature
    people. Disagree with the selection of the nominee if you will, but such childish remarks are unwarranted.

    May 13, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  14. Lets expose Rush Limbaughs staff.

    Good job.

    May 13, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. buckwheat

    Rachel Maddow`s mom....i will vote for that!

    May 13, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  16. 4+5=9

    Amazing, lady is wearing pearls, and they say she is not feminine, and, she held a softball bat eons ago, and so that upsets katie couric and her incredibly disappearing nose, to suggest stupidities like, why don't we have more supreme court judges that are average.

    Why not have an alcoholic high school dropout with a jail record? Wow, why don't we have more TV anchors that are obese like all americans? With Katie, you just smile at her and gaze at her rock hard love handles, and she'll parrot you, but what if a judge is orders of magnitude above that in terms of independent thought. Doesn't the bimbo get that judges are not elected for a reason and so they don't have to represent shallow traits. Just go carve yourself, Barbie.

    May 13, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Hank, Philadelphia, PA

    I wonder if those who think her resume is "thin" had the same reaction to Clarence Thomas' or Harriet Miers' nominations to the Court? Let's be fair, folks, not bitter because there aren't a lot of judicial opinions to pick through to find a stray objectionable word or statement. Maybe a paper she wrote in elementary school contains something that can be used to mount an attack. And I didn't think the criterion was "pretty", or is it only your criterion for a woman nominee?

    May 13, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. GOP Woman

    Re: The President isn't stacking the court with liberals. He's stacking the court with ugly.

    Didn't know "ugly" was a disqualifying factor. Must be a new rule instituted after Scalia and Alito were confirmed. Or does it apply only to women?

    May 13, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    When compared to Clarence Thomas's resume which would fit on the head of a pin, Kagan is over qualified. Kagan cannot be compared to the good ole boy Bush nomination (like Harriet Miers) as repayment for her party loyalty.

    May 13, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    It appears that the right wing nuts, birthers and baggers only have sarcasm.

    May 13, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  21. Brian, NJ

    Didn't Bush nominate Harriet Myers, who had less experience than Kagan? I'm sure Hannity/Limbaugh/Levin had no problem with her.

    May 13, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |

    We need another woman on the bench in the SCOTUS.

    I'm sick of old, white dudes telling me what's up.

    May 13, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. William, from Cali

    My only question is...This President is telling Black People, that there is not one qualified Black woman or another Black man... to serve on the Supreme Court after all these years; but there are two latina women! I'm still SMH !

    May 13, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  24. Charlotte

    Well, clearly "Sarcasm" isn't one of those with intelligence, education or accomplishments. You have absolutely no idea what kinds of issues or how substantive the discussions are and it's just moronic to make such remarks about what you don't know. But then moronic about sums up the people who say such things. And Eric, for your information, her resume is far more impressive than your own. Just because it doesn't include being a judge is no reason for you to be so hateful and jealous and dismissive. It's only recently that the court has had mostly people who were judges. In history, about 40% of the supreme court justices were never judges prior to their appointment to the Court. Go educate yourself before embarrassing yourself further. It's not a prerequisite and there is plenty of precedent for non-judge justices. For those who are so stupidly shallow as to even notice appearance, I would venture to say she's better looking than Alito or Roberts, but who on EARTH gives a rats about looks???

    May 13, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  25. I love it!!

    Amen Claudia in houston! comments like Eric And "Duck Fallas" below are just pure hatred...and ignorance! she was the DEAN OF HARVARD LAW for crying out loud! she's more than qualified in my book! better than having some old white fart sitting on the bench waiting for his heart to give out!

    May 13, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
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