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Lee Ross

Supreme Court

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Top GOP Leader: Kagan Filibuster Possible

June 20, 2010 - 1:55 PM | by: Lee Ross

The Senate’s top Republican now says it’s too early to know if Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will have to overcome a filibuster on her way to a seat on the nation’s highest court.

“I think some of her views are quite troubling, at least to me, in the area of political speech and the First Amendment,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Fox News Sunday. ” I think it’s entirely too early to determine whether or not this nominee would be subjected to a 60-vote threshold.”

Shortly before Kagan was nominated early last month McConnell said a filibuster would be highly unlikely. His comments Sunday suggest Republicans are now more open to blocking President Obama’s pick. “I have never filibustered a Supreme Court nominee,” McConnell said. “But it is possible, but entirely too early to know whether that would be appropriate.”

Kagan’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to start a week from Monday. The panel’s top Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., says in an interview with Fox News the hearing is critical for the American people to learn about Kagan, 50, and her views. “She’s a young nominee–very little legal background, never been a judge. She’s been very political in her legal work and in her non-legal work. So I think there’s a lot to be asked at this hearing and I think it can make some difference.

Sessions has griped about the June 28 start date for many weeks. He’s concerned it leaves senators and staff with not enough time to review nearly 200,000 documents that have come out in recent weeks. But Sessions has yet to formally ask for additional time. He also says he’s uneasy with the decision by While House lawyers and others to withhold 1,600 Kagan-related documents. Most if not all of these pages come from her service during the Clinton Administration and are held at the Clinton Library in Little Rock.

The most recent batch of papers came from the Pentagon which released 850 documents related to the controversy surrounding the Harvard Law School and its policies allowing military recruiters on campus. Before joining the Obama Administration in 2009 as Solicitor General, Kagan served as the law school’s dean and was vocal in her disagreement with the government’s so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals serving in the military.

Kagan called the law a “moral injustice of the first order” and was a central figure in efforts to keep military recruiters off of the Harvard Campus. Sessions took to the Senate floor last week to criticize Kagan’s leadership at Harvard Law School and said her views contributed to a hostile environment for students and recruiters. On Sunday, he went after Democratic efforts to play down the significance of the Pentagon documents. “I didn’t appreciate the White House saying it perfectly cleared her of any allegations of blocking the military–it certainly did not. I think it will be an intense part of the questioning.”

Sessions has also questioned the priorities of Kagan’s moral outrage at Harvard. He has questioned why Kagan was apparently silent when the university accepted a $20 million gift from Saudi Arabia to create an Islamic Studies Center. “She fought the ability of our own soldiers to access campus resources,” Sessions said Wednesday. “But not those who spread the oppressive tenets of Islamic Shari’a law.”

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