Sessions: Kagan Won't Shift Court on Abortion

President Obama introduces his Supreme Court nominee, Solicitor General Elena Kagan
CBS
The leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said this morning that it was important to examine whether, if confirmed, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan would say no to the Obama administration.

"I think the Congress and the Senate needs to examine her record carefully," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said on CBS' "The Early Show." "This is not a coronation. She'll be subjected to scrutiny. We need to know whether or not [if] she obtains that robe and sits on that bench, will she be an objective person? Will she say 'no' even to the Obama administration and some of their agenda items if they're unconstitutional? She's got to demonstrate that or she shouldn't be given a lifetime appointment."

Sessions voted against Kagan's nomination last year for Solicitor General, citing her lack of appellate court experience. (Seven Republicans supported her in the 61-31 vote).

When asked by "Early Show" anchor Maggie Rodriguez what he would need to learn from Kagan to earn his and other Republicans' support, Sessions said, "I'm not sure what we'll be looking to hear. I'll be meeting with her personally, I look forward to that. She has a good academic background. But not much actual, practical experience. Most of her actual legal experience has been in sort of political law, been within the Clinton administration or the Obama administration." [Kagan served as Associate White House Counsel under Clinton.] "We need to know that she's got the personal discipline that good judges and good lawyers have so that day after day, week after week, it won't be her politics or her ideology but the law and her fidelity to it, that will decide how she handles her cases."

CBSNews.com Special Report: Elena Kagan

"Has she in your view shown otherwise as Solicitor General?" Rodriguez asked.

"I think we're going to look at that record," Sessions said. "It's not been long, just a little over a year. It's a good legal position. It's the first real significant legal position she's ever had. So I think it is something to examine."

Some analysts pointed to Kagan's time in the Clinton White House, during which she asked the president to support a ban on all late-term abortions of viable fetuses except when the mother's health is at risk, saying her position might shift the court to the right compared to Justice John Paul Stephens, whom she would replace.

When asked by Rodriguez for a response, Sessions said, "I don't sense that she would on that issue move the court to the right. A 'partial-birth' abortion situation was something that is to me unthinkable that somebody would oppose that, so she was correct on that for sure. But I don't know that that reflects any serious disagreement with the court's view on abortion."

When asked for a prediction on whether or not she would be confirmed in time to take a seat by the traditional first Monday in October, Sessions said, "I'm not going to predict that.

"The American people need to know that this appointment is very, very important for our country. The next Supreme Court as configured will decide many issues about the limited nature of the federal government, and is it still limited today? Her background is on the other side — she's been a liberal political activist throughout her life. And she'll need to put that aside and be an objective judge. That will be I think the examination's center."

More on SCOTUS Nominee Elena Kagan:

Kagan Confirmation Quest Expected to Succeed
Obama Nominates Elena Kagan to Supreme Court
Chip Reid: Why Kagan? In A Word: "Leadership"
Washington Unplugged: Elena Kagan Beyond the Gavel
Jan Crawford: Kagan Is a Strategic, Not Political Pick
Kagan "Honored and Humbled" by Nomination
Peter Maer: Obama Seeks to Frame Kagan Debate on on His Terms
GOP Hits Kagan's Lack of Judicial Experience
The Left Struggles to Define Elena Kagan
Obama Says Kagan "Embodies Excellence"
Photos: Elena Kagan

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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