Sessions, Barrasso Worry About Kagan’s Independence

Posted July 14, 2010 at 9:28pm

Updated: July 14, 10:40 p.m.

Senate Republicans launched their most overtly partisan attacks on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Wednesday, accusing her of being a “rubber stamp” for President Barack Obama and demanding that she recuse herself from cases involving the health care overhaul and other administration policies.

The charges, brought against Kagan by Senate Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) during a floor colloquy, were striking given their political nature. Although questions about a nominee’s political and philosophical beliefs are common, Sessions’ complaints Wednesday went further, warning that Kagan could be a plant by the Obama administration to advocate for its policies.

“I do not believe the president is entitled to launch onto the Supreme Court a political loyalist who will be a legal rubber stamp for anything that gets proposed,” Sessions said.

Because of his concerns, Sessions called for Kagan to essentially recuse herself in any case that may involve Obama’s policies. Kagan is currently the nation’s solicitor general.

“The American people I meet with are concerned about governmental overreach, [they] wonder if we’ve lost all sense of the limited power of this government in Washington,” he said. “I believe those people are entitled to have absolute confidence that anybody confirmed to the Supreme Court will not sit on a case if they can’t be impartial or if their impartiality could even reasonably be questioned.”

Barrasso, a doctor who has been one of the GOP’s leaders in opposing the health care law, largely limited his attacks to that issue and said Kagan should recuse herself from any cases related to it.

Kagan has already indicated that she would recuse herself from at least 11 cases, all of which she was involved in as solicitor general. The cases involve a number of topics, most notably the Citizens United campaign finance case.

“It seems in a case like this — the area that the president of the United States put all of his credibility and effort into forcing through … and in my opinion jamming down the throats of the American people — on this issue, if she’s already going to recuse herself on 11 [other cases], it seems to me that we should also get that sort of a commitment” on health care, Barrasso said.

The attacks on Kagan follow a letter from Judiciary Committee Republicans to Kagan asking her to detail her involvement in evaluating lawsuits challenging the law.