Dems, GOP Spar over Kagan's Experience, Bias

Elena Kagan

After a series of meetings Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan held with members of Congress today, Democrats and Republicans stood at odds over whether Kagan has the right experience for the job and whether her service in the Obama administration would make her biased toward its policies.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had a good discussion with Kagan today but is still concerned about her lack of judicial or law practice experience.

Kagan currently serves as solicitor general -- the federal government's top lawyer -- and was the dean of Harvard Law School before that. If confirmed, Kagan would be the first person with no judicial experience to join the Supreme Court in decades, a fact that has become the focus of GOP criticism.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), meanwhile, rejected the concerns over Kagan's experience.

"I don't hold that against her that she hasn't spent a lifetime as a litigator," Durbin said after meeting with her today. "I just think she brings a thorough knowledge of the law reflected by her background as a law professor and dean of one of the nation's leading law schools."

Kagan also served in the Clinton White House and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. As solicitor general, she has argued on behalf of the government in six cases before the Supreme Court.

"She's no stranger to that court," Durbin said, referring to the Supreme Court. "And I don't think she'll be a stranger to the arguments that will come before it. She just brings a little different perspective than some."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, brushed off concerns raised by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others that Kagan could be a "rubber stamp" for Obama administration's policies since she currently works for the White House.

"Does that mean a Republican president couldn't nominate [a Republican staffer] to be on the Supreme Court? That's kind of grasping at straws," Leahy said.

More on Elena Kagan's nomination:

Elena Kagan White House "Interview" Riles Reporters
Elena Kagan Takes Center Stage in 2010 Campaign Battles
Kagan to Meet With Key Senators Wednesday
Washington Unplugged: Kagan Riles Both Sides of the Aisle
Jeff Sessions: Kagan Won't Shift Court on Abortion
Chip Reid: Why Kagan? In A Word: "Leadership"
Photos: Elena Kagan Special Report: Elena Kagan