WASHINGTON – Republicans will call three military witnesses to testify against Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Capitol Hill next week, an indication they plan to highlight her dispute with the military over recruiters’ access to Harvard Law School’s campus while she was dean.
The GOP plans to call military witnesses who are expected to strongly criticize Kagan’s decision to bar recruiters from the Harvard Law career services office over the prohibition on openly gay soldiers.
Both sides were gearing up for a week’s worth of politically charged exchanges on the qualifications of President Barack Obama’s nominee, the role of judges in society and hot-button issues ranging from gun rights to gay marriage.
Democrats said they would call conservative supporters of Kagan as witnesses, in an apparent bid to bolster their argument that she’s a mainstream pick.
White House aides noted that Kagan has drawn endorsements from some leading conservative lawyers and academics, but sidestepped a question about whether Kagan is a liberal.
“Every justice has a point of view that they bring to the bench. The question is are they going to decide issues on the merits and … in an impartial way,” presidential adviser David Axelrod said. “Yes, Elena Kagan will absolutely do that.”
Republican senators and a vocal group of conservative interest groups portray Kagan as just the opposite.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, wrote in an editorial that there was “no justification” for Kagan’s stance on military recruiting at Harvard.
Sessions circulated a letter Friday from Military Families United that blasted Kagan for the move.
“(W)e find Ms. Kagan’s failure to offer support to our military in a time of war and her willingness to defy federal law as troubling and appalling,” wrote the group, which says it represents soldiers’ families.
The organization didn’t take a position on Kagan’s confirmation, but urged senators to demand answers from Kagan on the episode during next week’s hearings. Another group, the Center for Military Readiness, is advocating a filibuster of Kagan over the issue.
The controversy arose because the military’s prohibition against openly gay soldiers – which Kagan denounced strongly – violated Harvard’s policy against employers who discriminate in hiring. Kagan said recruiters could work only through campus military and veterans’ groups to make contact with interested students. But the Pentagon said that made Harvard ineligible for federal funding under a law requiring schools to give the military the same access other employers had.