Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and senior Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama this afternoon set the broad themes of the committee’s nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court in their opening statements.
While stressing Kagan’s distinguished legal rÃ©sumÃ©–acclaimed Harvard Law School dean, first woman in that position, respected professor, seasoned former White House official–Leahy also launched the first of a series of attacks by committee Democrats on the “conservative judicial activism” of the current Supreme Court majority.
Sessions, on the other hand, criticized Kagan as too inexperienced, too liberal, too activist, too political, too friendly to big government, and too soft on illegal immigrants, among other things.
The committee’s other 11 Democrats and six Republicans mostly followed similar patterns in their own 10-minute opening statements. Today’s hearing began shortly after 12:30 p.m. and will end late this afternoon with Kagan’s own opening statement.
Leahy, suggesting that the Court’s conservatives are “partisans,” focused his fire especially on the 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore and this January’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC. In the latter, Leahy said, “five conservative justices rejected the court’s own precedent, the bipartisan law enacted by Congress, and 100 years of legal developments in order to open the door for massive corporate spending on elections.”
Citizens United held for the first time that corporations have First Amendment rights to spend unlimited amounts supporting and opposing political candidates.