Leahy Predicts Kagan Confirmation to U.S. Supreme Court `in the Summer'

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy predicted that the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan “will be done in the summer.”

Democrat Leahy said he will sit down with the committee’s top Republican, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and “we will work out a time.” Leahy spoke on ABC’s “This Week” program.

Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he didn’t think his party will mount a filibuster to block a vote on Kagan’s nomination. Filibusters should be “relegated to the extreme circumstances” and Kagan’s nomination doesn’t present that type of situation, he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

Kagan, 50, would succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens and likely take his place in the court’s liberal wing on many issues. She would be the youngest member of the nine-justice court and the only one who hadn’t previously served as a lower court judge.

Kagan now serves as the U.S. solicitor general, the federal government’s top Supreme Court lawyer. She has also been a law professor, a White House aide under President Bill Clinton and a lawyer in private practice. A Harvard Law School graduate, she became the first female dean of that school in 2003.

Republicans are questioning whether she is experienced enough and whether she will be sufficiently independent from Obama, whom she has known since she helped recruit him to the University of Chicago Law School faculty in the 1990s.

Kagan’s confirmation hearings will be “a big deal” because she “has so little other record,” Sessions said on ABC. “It’s so important how she testifies.”

Seeking Records

The White House asked the National Archives on May 15 to accelerate the release of more than 160,000 pages of Kagan’s records, including e-mails, when she worked in the Bill Clinton White House from 1995 to 1999.

“Their availability, on an expedited schedule, is necessary to afford the Senate a reasonably opportunity to evaluate Ms. Kagan’s nomination,” presidential counsel Robert F. Bauer said in a letter to David S. Ferriero, the U.S. archivist.

Republicans have criticized her for opposing military recruiting on the Harvard Law School campus because of the services’ gay ban. Sessions, speaking on the ABC program, said Kagan “violated the law of the United States at various points in the process” of dealing with the issue.

Corporate Power

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he was troubled by Kagan’s opposition to a January Supreme Court decision that increased the power of corporations to spend money on political campaigns. Many Democrats have condemned the ruling as an undue expansion of corporate influence over elections.

“It needs to be explored and will be explored,” McConnell said on NBC’s Meet the Press. Still, there should not be a rush to judgment on Kagan, he said.

“We need to let the process play out, an orderly process, a fair process,” McConnell said. “What I think we need to do is find out what her record is.”

Even so, Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said last week that Kagan is likely to be confirmed. Democrats and independents hold 59 seats in the Senate and need help from only a single Republican to ensure a floor vote on the nomination.

Due Diligence

Arizona’s Senator Kyl, who voted to confirm Kagan in her present post as solicitor general, declined to say on CBS whether he would support her for the Supreme Court. Senators should do their “due diligence” while holding hearings on Kagan, he said.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said last week she saw no reason her party should attempt to block confirmation. Kagan last year won confirmation as solicitor general on a 61-31 vote.

Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Democrat who faces a primary election tomorrow, urged patience with making a decision on Kagan.

“I want to go to the hearings, I want to listen to her,” Specter said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “I don’t rush to judgment.”

To contact the reporter on this story: William McQuillen in Washington at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net

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