[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday delayed a vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan [official profile; JURIST news archive] at the request of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official website]. The vote on whether to send the nomination for consideration by the full Senate is now scheduled for July 20 [hearing video] after Sessions, the ranking member on the committee, requested that the vote be delayed under committee rules allowing any member to do so. In requesting the delay, Sessions described the confirmation process as moving in an “expeditious manner,” and went on to outline his potential objections to Kagan’s confirmation. Among them, he called Kagan’s answers to questions during her confirmation hearings as “less than candid” and expressed concern over her positions on legislation during her time working in the Clinton administration. Sessions explained:
The nominee lacks the experience and intellectual rigor that you develop from [the] full-time practice of law and serving as a judge. She’s had neither of those experiences and I think it showed in her testimony. … [H]er testimony lacked the clarity and strict intellectual honesty that I think we should look for in a nomination to the Supreme Court.
Sessions also called for further clarification of Kagan’s participation in her role as solicitor general in the efforts of the Obama administration to defend against a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted health care reform law [HR 3590 materials; JURIST news archive], describing her denial of involvement as insufficient. Also on Tuesday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] announced that he will support Kagan’s nomination [press release], describing her as possessing “an impressive knowledge of the law and fidelity to it[.] … She made clear that she will base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution, not politics or an ideological agenda.”
Kagan’s confirmation hearings concluded two weeks ago [JURIST report]. During the hearings, Kagan addressed the effect of political bias on the court and stressed the importance of not bringing politics to the bench. “Every judge has to do what he or she thinks the law requires. But on the other hand, there’s no question that the court is served best and our country is served best when people trust the court as an entirely non-political body.” Kagan later discussed the balancing test she deems necessary in resolving First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] lawsuits. Kagan’s confirmation hearings began late last month [JURIST report] with Democratic and Republican senators offering contrasting interpretations of Kagan’s judicial philosophy and lack of experience on the bench. Obama nominated Kagan [JURIST report] in May to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced his retirement [JURIST report] in April. Kagan became the first woman confirmed as Solicitor General [JURIST report] in 2009.