This article about Elena Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation hearing incorrectly said that the court's recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling struck down limits on corporate contributions to political campaigns. It struck down prohibitions on corporations using their general treasuries to spend money advocating for and against candidates.
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Kagan makes bipartisan appeal in Supreme Court confirmation hearings
Coburn asked how she would take off her "political hat" if she became a justice, referring to her time as a legal and domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. "That has not been on for many years," Kagan shot back. "So many people have said, 'Oh, she's such a political person.' I've had a 25-year career in the law. Four were in the Clinton White House. . . . This is by no means the major part of my career."
Kagan signaled, however, that she sided with a controversial aspect of a major domestic-policy accomplishment of the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress: enacting a health-care law that for the first time will require most legal residents of the United States to obtain insurance. Some Republicans contend that such a mandate is unconstitutional, and GOP-led states are threatening to file lawsuits challenging the provision.
Calling the requirement "an unprecedented reach of Congress's authority, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) asked Kagan whether she supports the argument that the mandate is allowed under the Constitution's interstate-commerce clause. Kagan declined to address the requirement but made clear that she supports an expansive reading of Congress's regulatory authority. She said that part of the Constitution "grants broad deference to Congress in this area" and "assumes that Congress knows what is necessary to regulate the country's economy."
The most sustained and pointed questioning came on an issue that Republicans have made clear for weeks would be at the core of their criticism: Kagan's statements and actions regarding military recruiting at Harvard Law School. Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the committee's ranking Republican, chastised Kagan's treatment of the military, saying, "You were taking steps to treat them in a second-class way and not give them the same equal access because you deeply opposed their policy" on gays.
Kagan stood by her opposition to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, calling it "unwise and unjust." But she said, "I respect and indeed I revere the military," and she contended that "military recruiters had access to Harvard students every day I was dean." She did not mention that, during the spring of 2005, neither the law school's career services offices nor anyone else on campus officially sponsored the recruiters.
"We were trying to do two things: to make sure military recruiters had full access to students and protect our anti-discrimination policy," Kagan said.
Sessions was not satisfied. "I'm just a little taken aback," he told her, "by the tone of your remarks."
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.