Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan remained tight-lipped Wednesday as she moved through a series of private meetings with key senators, part of the traditional run-up to her confirmation hearings.
While Kagan said nothing publicly, behind closed doors she faced a grilling from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who met with her for about 40 minutes in the morning. McConnell said earlier in the day that he planned to ask whether she can be independent of the president.
“As solicitor general, Ms. Kagan is a member of the president’s administration. The president on Monday also said that they’re ‘friends.’ And the vice president’s chief of staff — who helped oversee her nomination — is evidently hard at work convincing members of the president’s party that they will have nothing to worry about in terms of Ms. Kagan’s possible appointment,” McConnell said.
“But in our constitutional order, justices are not on anyone’s team. They have a very different role to play,” he added.
Republicans also have criticized Kagan, who has never served as a judge, for having a thin litigation record, faint paper trail and close ties to Democrats.
In addition to working for Obama, she served as a White House lawyer and policy adviser during President Bill Clinton’s tenure.
“It’s my hope that the Obama administration doesn’t think the ideal Supreme Court nominee is someone who would rubber- stamp its policies, but this nomination does raise the question,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Kagan may have faced a tough audience in McConnell, but her day began in friendly territory. She first met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for about half an hour.
Afterward, Reid released a statement saying the meeting had left him confident she was the right choice to replace retiring Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.
Kagan, surrounded by an entourage of aides and security officers, was scheduled to spend the entire day making courtesy calls to senators, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, among others.