May 13th, 2010
12:55 PM ET
12 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. marcia

    This "administration" is so so sickening!

    May 13, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  2. Wisconsinite

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

    Didn't know "pretty" was a requirment of a Supreme Court Justice. OH! I guess it's just a requirment for FEMALE Supreme Court Justices, I guess since I've never heard the looks of any MALE Justices attacked this much!

    May 13, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  3. Pkm

    The public needs to see these hearings i am a dem a vietnam veteran and i need to find out why are military can not come on campus why

    May 13, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  4. MH

    @Duck Fallas

    Spoken like a true Republican. What a class act! Just another reason I am proud to say I'm NOT one of 'em!

    May 13, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. LacrosseMom (the real one)

    Good, I believe that everything that the government does should be televised. Most everyone can tune in to C-Span and watch Congress in action.

    Elena Kagan will be a great justice, but we will not convince the conservatives of this, so why try?

    May 13, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  6. normajean

    Picky,picky,picky. It has only been about a week since Kagans name has been in the news and already people are tearing her apart and putting down her body of work, not to mention calling her ugly. Please let's give this fellow human being a chance. She will be solidly questioned over and over by a huge number of people and her opinions will be tiresomely discussed This is only the very beginning of her possible appointment. And please, before you all scream and yell, take a shot at some reading on past appointees and you might learn something. Finally, if you speak of ugly on the Court, go look in a mirror.,and be honest.

    May 13, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. Lili, FL

    Will it be televised in the same channel as the closed door Health Care meetings?

    May 13, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Wisconsinite

    "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"

    Mmmmm . . . actually the hearings haven't really started yet. These are just the preliminary meetings and, believe it or not, this has been the process for all nominees under all presidents . . . at least in recent history. I'm sure, when the hearings are actually under way, there will be plenty of "tough questions". Possibly even enough to satisy you. Don't let your "sarasm" get in the way of the truth or anything, though.

    May 13, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    In addition to being open to televised proceedings, Kagan also indicated she'd be open to more all-you-can-eat buffets throughout the beltway.

    May 13, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Tulsa

    Claudis, you hit the nail on the head.

    Eric, Let's see what you consider to be a good resume for the court. Intelligence, understanding of law, the constitution and the process doesn't seen to matter to Republicans. Of course, they are a bunch of ideologues and morons with a mean streak and confused morals.

    Looks like being an ultra conservative with great legs is what the right considers a good woman candidate for the SCOTUS.

    Too bad you LOST THE ELECTION.... so you don't get to decide! YEAH!!!!!

    May 13, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. No Incumbents 2010

    Spector is losing his campaign. Why would Kagan list to him?

    May 13, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. mh

    a president with no experince and no business being in the job nominates people with no experience and no business being in the job!

    May 13, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  13. J, Columbus, OH

    SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!!! Ugly faces off against Ugly as its Kagan versus Specter! The grim reaper versus the crypt keeper. Only on Pay Per View.

    May 13, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. David

    Is anyone else surprised at how easy she is going to sail in when she is a clear opponent of the Constitution she is supposed to uphold???

    May 13, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. cj920

    Jeez, some of you people are really bitter!

    May 13, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Mar

    Duck Fallas, it is very smart of you to just talk about people's apperance instead of their intelligence.....NOT.

    May 13, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  17. Sniffit

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

    And the conservatives are apparently stacking the discourse with stupid. Please explain to the class how replacing one liberal with another liberal is "stacking the court."

    We're waiting...

    May 13, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  18. Dan, TX

    Kagan's philosophy is to uphold the constitution. No other questions need asking except whether she is qualified to do the job. Clearly, she is.

    May 13, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  19. jphilly08

    i dont care about her experiance as long as she is a liberal, we need more of them in there.

    May 13, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  20. Da Professor

    Lets face it, the confirmation hearing process IS a "charade. The Repubs, under control of the right-wing extremists, will lie, bluster, act like the puppets of the Fox Channel that they are, get their 15 minutes of TV time, then cave.

    May 13, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  21. Da Professor

    Duck Fallas. Now lets see your picture. Oh I forgot your picture is banned after the bout of screamng and panic with the children at your grade school.

    May 13, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  22. Da Professor

    Eric ole boy. She is a Harvard Grad, absolutely brilliant, and you are???

    May 13, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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