White House officials say they have no doubt Elena Kagan will leave her audience impressed when she testifies before a Senate committee next week on her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kagan, President Barack Obama’s second Supreme Court nominee, would become the fourth woman in its 221-year history and for the first time give the court three sitting female members. She will make an opening statement after the 12 Democrats and seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have an opportunity to speak.
“I simply marvel at what she is going to bring to this hearing,” said Robert Bauer, the White House counsel. “I think it will be evident very quickly to people as they listen to her how supremely qualified she is for the court.”
Bauer, speaking on a conference call with reporters, later said, “There hasn’t been a stronger nominee for the Supreme Court in certainly many years.”
Republicans say they will focus on Kagan’s lack of judicial experience and seek to portray her as a partisan activist with a liberal agenda. They say Kagan, 50, can expect tough questions about recently released documents from her years in President Bill Clinton’s White House, where she worked on issues including abortion, gun control and campaign finance.
Republicans led by Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama also have challenged Kagan’s opposition to military recruitment on the Harvard Law School campus as a protest to the Pentagon’s ban on openly gay troops.
Sessions today released a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee from a group called Military Families United that described Kagan’s position on the recruitment issue as “troubling and appalling.”
“We are hopeful that the Senate Judiciary Committee will fairly and vigorously question her motivation and reasoning on this matter,” wrote Robert Jackson, the group’s top lobbyist. “Thousands of military families, if not all Americans, deserve to hear an explanation of her actions.”
Jackson said the group isn’t taking a position on her confirmation.
White House adviser David Axelrod, speaking on the conference call with Bauer, said Kagan will show she is “very much in the mainstream of thought about what the role of the court is.”
Axelrod said Kagan has been spending several hours a day fielding questions in practice sessions, plus additional time preparing on her own. She will have met one-on-one with 62 senators by the time the hearings start on June 28, Bauer said.
Democrats and Republicans completed their witness lists for the hearings. Democratic witnesses include Greg Garre, a former solicitor general; Massachusetts appellate court Judge Fernande “Nan” Duffly, who is representing the National Association of Women Judges; and Lilly Ledbetter, a plaintiff in a pay discrimination lawsuit whose $360,000 award was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2007.
Kurt White, the president of the Harvard Law Armed Forces Association, also will testify for Kagan. In a preview this morning, he told reporters that as dean she honored veterans on the law school campus in various ways, including hosting a small annual dinner for military veterans and their spouses.
Republican witnesses include several current or retired military officials, including Army National Guard Captain Pete Hegseth, executive director of the conservative Vets for Freedom. Also listed are Robert Alt, director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation; and David Norcross, chairman of the National Republican Lawyers Association.
The first day of hearings will coincide with the release of the Supreme Court’s final opinions of its nine-month term. In one ruling, the court will decide whether the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects gun rights, restricts state and local weapons-control efforts in addition to those at the federal level.
Kagan would replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who is retiring.