Sen. Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that Elena Kagan may be better suited to deal with students and faculty than the daily work of the Supreme Court, while Sen. Patrick Leahy defended her lack of judicial experience by blaming Republicans.
“While she is truly intelligent, the exceptional qualities of her mind may be better suited to dealing with students and unruly faculty than with the hard daily work of deciding tough cases in the Supreme Court,” said Sessions (R.-Ala.) during the first day of the floor debate over Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“[Chief Justice John] Roberts and [Justice Samuel] Alito, on the other hand, were steeped in the law over many years as lawyers and judges. That’s who they were. That’s their skill. That was their craft. That was their business. They understood it. It showed. Ms. Kagan did not show that,” said Sessions, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, blamed Republicans for criticizing her lack of judicial experience because “they are themselves responsible.”
“President Clinton nominated her to the D.C. Circuit in 1999 and it was Senate Republicans who refused to consider her nomination,” Leahy said in his remarks on the Senate floor. “Had they done so, she would have more than 10 years of judicial experience.”
“Leahy would be an experienced doctor, if he spent the last 10 years in surgery, but doesn’t mean I’m gonna let him operate on me,” a senior GOP aide said in response to Leahy’s statement.
Sessions described Kagan during her confirmation hearing as “glib, at times humorous, smooth, conversant on many issues, but not impressive on any in a more serious way, in my view.” Sessions said he believes her lack of judicial experience was part of the reason her testimony during the hearings was unconvincing.
“Her testimony failed to evidence an understanding of the gravity of the issues with which she was dealing and the important nature of her role in them,” Sessions said.
“She seemed to suggest these events just happened around her, none of which was her responsibility. Several times in the course of her testimony, she inaccurately described the circumstances, the nature of the matters in which she had been engaged to a significant degree, I thought.” Leahy often referred to the “activist conservative majority” on the Supreme Court and said Republicans are opposing Kagan’s nomination because, “They do not like the fact she is genuinely committed to judicial restraint rather than enshrining the Republican agenda in the Constitution.”
Leahy said he believes Kagan has the necessarily qualifications to be on the court and has shown respect for the rule of law. Sessions challenged Kagan’s supporters to prove the error in his analysis.
“If I’m in error, I would be pleased to admit and correct that error,” Sessions said. “I ask and challenge the supporters of the nominee to point out any errors in my remarks as we go forth.”
The Senate is expected to vote on Kagan’s confirmation this week. Twenty-eight senators are on record as supporting her, while 26 have said they will not.