Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions stepped up his challenges against Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Wednesday by criticizing Harvard University’s acceptance of a $20 million donation from a Saudi Arabian family while she served as dean of the law school.
The donation, the Alabama Republican said in a floor speech, funded the creation of an Islamic studies center at the university. Sessions blasted the move and again took Kagan to task over her involvement in Harvard Law School’s refusal to allow military recruiters to use certain school resources because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Kagan served as dean from 2003 to 2009.
“Ms. Kagan was perfectly willing to obstruct the U.S. military, which has liberated countless Muslims from the hate and tyranny of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban,” Sessions said. “But it seems she sat on the sidelines as Harvard created an Islamic studies center funded by — and dedicated to — foreign leaders presiding over a legal system that violates what would appear to be her position.”
Sessions further painted Kagan, who is the U.S. solicitor general, as a liberal choice for the high court. “There are serious questions as to whether she would be able to set aside that political agenda that has defined so much of her career,” he said.
Sessions’ comments Wednesday continue the GOP drumbeat against the nominee, who is scheduled to appear before the Judiciary Committee on June 28 for her confirmation hearing. Republican criticism of President Barack Obama’s second Supreme Court pick has gained little traction on Capitol Hill, but the GOP maintains that the message machine will continue to ramp up as the confirmation hearing draws closer.
“Once again, Senate Republicans are demonstrating that they won’t let the facts get in the way of a political attack,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in an e-mail. “The truth is that, under Dean Kagan, the number of Harvard law school graduates who entered military service increased. Some of those students are now serving overseas and have expressed their belief that General Kagan should be confirmed to the Supreme Court.”
Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) took to the floor earlier Wednesday to praise Kagan. If confirmed, Kagan would be the third woman on the Supreme Court and the fourth to serve in its history.
“Solicitor General Kagan has a track record of listening to different viewpoints and practical experience at bringing people together from across the political spectrum, and that’s increasingly important on a very divided Supreme Court,” said Klobuchar, who sits on the Judiciary panel. “I hope my colleagues will keep an open mind as we consider this highly qualified nominee.”