Excerpts from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) opening remarks
The following are excerpts from Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions's (R-AL) opening remarks:
On the Republicans' approach to questioning:
"As I have pledged, Republicans are committed to conducting this hearing in a thoughtful and respectful manner. It's not a coronation, as I've said, but a confirmation process. Serious and substantive questions will be asked. Ms. Kagan will be given ample opportunity to respond."
On Kagan's experience:
"Ms. Kagan certainly has numerous talents and many good qualities, but there are serious concerns about this nomination. Ms. Kagan has less real legal experience of any nominee in at least 50 years. And it's not just that the nominee has not been a judge. She has barely practiced law and not with the intensity and duration from which I think real legal understanding occurs.
Ms. Kagan has never tried a case before a jury. She argued her first appellate case just nine months ago. While academia certainly has value, there is no substitute, I think, for being in the harness of the law, handling real cases over a period of years."
On Kagan's college thesis:
"Ms. Kagan's college thesis on socialism in New York seems to bemoan socialism's demise there. In her master's thesis, she affirmed the activist tendencies of the Earl Warren court, but complained that they could have done better -- a better job of justifying their activism."
On gun rights:
"During her White House years the nominee was the central figure in the Clinton-Gore effort to restrict gun rights, and, as the dramatic 5-4 decision today in the McDonald case shows, the personal right of every American to own a gun hangs by a single vote on the Supreme Court."
On Kagan's record concerning partial-birth abortion:
"Ms. Kagan was also the point person for the Clinton administration's effort to block congressional restrictions on partial-birth abortions. Indeed, documents show that she was perhaps the key person who convinced President Clinton to change his mind from supporting to opposing legislation that would have banned that procedure. "
On her tenure as dean of Harvard Law School:
"During her time as dean at Harvard, Ms. Kagan reversed Harvard's existing policy and kicked the military out of the recruiting office, in violation of federal law. Her actions punished the military and demeaned our soldiers as they were courageous fighting for our country in two wars overseas.
As someone who feels the burden of sending such young men and women into harm's way, and who spent much time drafting and redrafting legislation to ensure military recruiters were treated fairly on campus, I can't take this issue lightly."
On Kagan's record regarding don't-ask-don't-tell:
"And despite promises to this committee that she would vigorously defend the Congress' "don't ask/don't tell" policy for the military if it were challenged in court, the actions she has taken as solicitor general do appear to have deliberately and unnecessarily placed that law in jeopardy. "
On Kagan's association with "activist judges":
"Importantly, throughout her career Ms. Kagan has associated herself with well-known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the meaning of words of our Constitution and laws in ways that, not surprisingly, have the result of advancing that judge's preferred social policies and agendas."
On "elite intellectualism":
"In the wake of one of the largest expansions of government power in history, many Americans are worried about Washington's disregard for limits on its power. Americans know that our exceptional Constitution was written to ensure that our federal government is one of limited, separated powers and part of a federal-state system with individual rights reserved to our free people. But we've watched as the president and Congress have purchased ownership shares in banks, nationalized car companies, seized control of the student loan industry, taken over large sectors of our nation's healthcare system, and burdened generations of Americans with crippling debt.
So this all sounds a lot like the progressive philosophy which became fashionable among elite intellectuals a century ago and which is now seeing a revival. They saw the Constitution as an outdated impediment to their expansive vision for a new social and political order in America. Even today, President Obama advocates a judicial philosophy that calls on judges to base their decisions on empathy and their broader vision of what America should be. He suggests that his nominee shares those views.
Our legal system does not allow such an approach. Americans want a judge that will be a check on government overreach, not a rubber stamp. No individual nominated by a president of either party should be confirmed as a judge if he or she does not understand that the judge's role is to fairly settle disputes of law and not set policy for the nation. Broad affirmations of fidelity to law during these hearings will not settle the question. One's record also speaks loudly."
On the need for "candor" from Kagan:
"Indeed, it's easy to pledge fidelity to law when you believe you can change its meaning later if you become a judge. Ms. Kagan has called previous confirmation hearings "vapid" and "hollow" -- some probably have been -- and has argued that nominees for a lifetime position owe a greater degree of candor and openness to the committee.
I agree with that. I agree that candor is needed and look forward to this good exchange this week, Mr. Chairman. "
June 28, 2010; 1:34 PM ET
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