Both Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the committee, said today that the Senate should vote on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan before it breaks for August recess.
Leahy said that he hopes a judicial questionnaire could go to Kagan as early as today and that after she returns it, he and Sessions will meet to discuss scheduling hearings on her nomination.
Both senators had separate private meetings with Kagan today. She has also met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (click here for a previous BLT post). Speaking to reporters after his meeting, Leahy said he was "impressed" with her knowledge and legal background, and pointedly referenced her earlier nomination to a federal judgeship during the Clinton administration.
This time, Leahy said, "she will have a hearing," and he is confident she will be confirmed. He called questions about whether Kagan would be a rubber stamp for the Obama administration "really grasping at straws," saying presidents of both parties have chosen justices who worked for them.
He and Sessions both said they had spoken to Kagan about her restrictions on military recruiters while dean of Harvard Law School, with Leahy saying that any student who wanted to talk to a military recruiter still could. But Sessions - whose meeting with Kagan lasted roughly an hour, the longest so far today - said he spoke to Kagan about his concerns on that issue, calling her stance "a little out of touch," something he attributed to the "rarified atmosphere" of academia. He called her position on the recruiters "a big mistake."
Speaking to reporters afterward, Sessions characterized his meeting with Kagan as "delightful," said he "enjoyed my time with her," and stressed that her answers to his questions were "responsive." Still, he made it clear that he had concerns about her independence. "She indicated she would be faithful to the law, but of course, every nominee says that," he said.