Kagan Confirmation Hearings Start June 28; GOP Wanted More Time

Mark your calendars...Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, just announced confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will begin on June 28, with the goal of wrapping up before the week-long July 4 recess.

"I'm sure more would like more time. On the other hand, some would like to do it earlier," Leahy said.

And Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions, R-AL, quickly made it clear he and fellow Republicans wanted more time. 

"Sometimes we just disagree about how things ought to be done. I know that we had asked that we be able to have the hearing after the recess, just to give our colleagues more time to study the record and maybe prepare their remarks," Session said, adding, "We'll try to do our best to conduct an effective hearing, even if I would have preferred a little more time."

Nevertheless, Leahy said "much of (Kagan's record) we've looked at when we considered her work last year," so he said it should make it easier to proceed with hearings more quickly.  And the chairman used  GOP criticism of Kagan's thin resume against them, saying it "should make preparing for a hearing less labor-intensive."

It is possible that Republicans could request a one week delay, as is committee custom, and in a release to reporters after his remarks, Sessions makes clear he just might demand that extra time.

“At this time, it remains to be seen whether the schedule set by the Chairman will be adequate to allow us to meet our important constitutional responsibility," the Sessions statement reads, and warns that "developments may occur during the course of such a review that simply require additional time—such as issues relating to document production or the need for more information connected with substantive controversies. If that is the case, we would be obligated to demand additional time.”

Sessions, during the formal announcement, also fired one warning shot at the nominee, saying that Americans are "concerned that Constitutional principles are being eroded, that we're not recognizing the fact that our government is a limited government. We can have a fine nominee in many ways, but if they're not committed to the limited role of a federal judge, if they're not aware that they must serve...under the Constitution, not above it, then they're not qualified to serve on the bench."

Leahy also announced that on Tuesday, he and Sessions sent a formal request via letter to the Clinton Library in Little Rock, AR, asking for files related to Kagan's work in that Administration, some 160,000 documents.

Committee member, John Cornyn, R-TX, said Tuesday, after his private meeting with the nominee, that he thinks this new material, not reviewed when Kagan was up for Solicitor General last year, could be critical in getting at her true philosophy as a judge.

Kagan, if confirmed, would take the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who announced on April 9 that he would be stepping down.  This hearing date puts Kagan well on track to take that seat, if confirmed, by the start of the new session, and Sessions made it clear he would try to wrap up the entire process before the start of the month-long August recess.