With the big Super Tuesday primary elections out of the way, the White House and the Democratic National Committee have mounted a public relations offensive to sell Supreme Court nominee Solicitor General Elena Kagan to voters and the senators tasked with her confirmation. Meanwhile, key Democrats are asking for more information on her record on abortion rights.
Judiciary Committee hearings will begin June 28, the panel announced today. It’s an earlier start than ranking member Sen. Jeff Session (R-AL) had sought, and Leahy said he wants to wrap the hearings by July 4. Staffers from both parties are poring over Kagan’s 202-page questionnaire detailing her record. Kagan herself has done a charm offensive while doing the standard in-person meetings with senators on Capitol Hill.
Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, a co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, sent Leahy a letter asking for more information on the nominee’s pro-choice stance. Slaughter (D-NY) argued that Kagan’s position is relatively unknown given her lack of a judicial record.
“The emergence of a memorandum co-authored by Solicitor General Kagan during her time as a White House aide in the Clinton Administration regarding abortion is troubling. As Co Chair of the Pro Choice Caucus, I urge you and the Committee to keep the constitutional right to choose at the forefront of your minds as you question Solicitor General Kagan,” Slaughter wrote. More on the memo can be found here. (Read Slaughter’s letter in full here.)
The White House today allowed former Clinton officials who worked with Kagan to detail her style while working in both the counsel’s office and the Domestic Policy Council. Former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta and the others dodged reporters’ questions about Kagan’s views on Roe v. Wade, saying she would have the opportunity to answer that during her hearings.
A White House press aide scolded reporters for asking, saying the call was meant to provide anecdotes about the nominee and “not an opportunity for them to speculate on her views.”
“There are not a lot of slouchers who work [at the White House] but even amongst the superachievers there, Elena was in a special class,” Podesta said, calling her “wicked smart.”
Podesta said it was a hallmark of Kagan’s tenure that she was not distracted, especially during the end of Clinton’s second term when many were handling the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The others, including former policy hand Neera Tanden, stressed Kagan’s application of initiatives to real people when helping Clinton with speeches and in making decisions on domestic policy. That’s one measure President Obama evaluated in making his selection. Tanden said Kagan was “animated by how policy affected real people, real families.”
The Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America today went live with a Web site designed to get Kagan supporters to campaign on her behalf with letters to the editor and by phoning talk radio.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said today that Kagan told him thousands of documents requested from the Clinton archives would be helpful when assessing her record.
“She said, ‘Well I think you’re going to learn a lot about how I approach problems and how I address issues by seeing how I did when I worked at the White House,’” Cornyn said, according to Politico. “I think these documents are perhaps even more important than they might otherwise be.”
Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network said today the questionnaire and Kagan’s college thesis from Oxford and Princeton present “judicial reasoning as a cynical game of trying to find legal fig leaves to cover what are fundamentally raw policy preferences or gut instinct.”