Gearing Up for a Fight

Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee begins barely four months before the crucial mid-term election. That means senators in both parties will seek opportunities to get across their political messages, as the Los Angeles Times reports

Kagan will probably face questions about the constitutionality of the sweeping healthcare overhaul and perhaps be asked about the financial regulation bill that could be signed into law in just days.

"The American people are not happy with the expanding power of the federal government," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

Democrats will seek to frame the GOP as the party that favors corporate interests, which could mean plenty of references to BP and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, even though its relevance to the proceedings is tangential at best.

More to the point, both sides will discuss at length the Supreme Court’s decision this year in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission that erased limits on corporate and union spending on political ads. Democrats will cite it as an example of a conservative high court run amok. Republicans largely view campaign finance regulation as an affront to free-speech rights. , , ,

Expect Alabama’s Sen. Sessions to take the lead in questioning Kagan:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Kagan had "serious deficiencies," and that her confirmation hearings will determine whether the GOP tries to prevent an up or down vote on her nomination.

"If things come out to indicate she’s so far outside the mainstream, it’s conceivable a filibuster might occur," Sessions told CBS’s "Face the Nation."

"The Senate rule that our Democrats led us to establish was that you shouldn’t filibuster except in extraordinary circumstances. I think that’s a legitimate rule," he added.

Remember that when President Reagan nominated Sessions to a federal judgeship in 1986, the nomination was defeated by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. So he knows a thing or two about the process.