Sessions Accuses Kagan of Undermining Military

Posted June 29, 2010 at 9:50am

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee got off to a combative start on Tuesday morning with ranking member Jeff Sessions repeatedly accusing the solicitor general of attempting to undermine the military while dean of Harvard Law School.

The Alabama Republican has made Kagan’s handling of military recruitment at Harvard a centerpiece of his attacks. During Tuesday’s opening round of questions, Sessions repeatedly hammered Kagan for limiting recruiters’ access to the campus over the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay individuals from serving.

Sessions accused Kagan of giving recruiters “the runaround” and treating service members in general as “second-class citizens.” When Kagan refused to agree with that characterization, Sessions bristled, saying: “I’m a little taken aback by the tone of your remarks because they are unconnected to reality. I know what happened at Harvard.”

Unlike recent Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Sonia Sotomayor, Kagan didn’t shy away from the fight.

Kagan, although appearing calm, repeatedly rejected Sessions’ charges, maintaining that recruiters had access to the campus during her entire tenure as dean, and even noting that military recruitment increased.

“It went up. And it went up because we ensured that students would know that the military recruiters were coming to the campus,” she said.

Republicans are expected to use Tuesday’s questioning to probe Kagan on a variety of other issues, including her views on the First Amendment and her thoughts on campaign finance rules and gun rights.

The Second Amendment — always a hot-button issue during Supreme Court confirmations — took on added importance Monday after the high court ruled that gun ownership is a fundamental right.

Kagan is also expected to come under fire for her defense of the Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission case as solicitor general and her work on campaign finance reform legislation during the Clinton administration.

Kagan, 50, was tapped to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, arguably the most liberal member of the Supreme Court. The Judiciary Committee is expected to spend most of the week questioning her. The full Senate is likely to vote on her confirmation before the August recess.