Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Supporters and critics of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan argued their case before the Senate Judiciary Committee late Thursday, but one of her most formidable opponents weighed in earlier in the day.
The National Rifle Association, Washington's powerful gun lobby, came out against her confirmation, saying Kagan "has repeatedly demonstrated a clear hostility to the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution."
As a domestic policy adviser for President Clinton in the 1990s, Kagan was part of an administration that battled the NRA on issues such as assault weapons, the importation of semiautomatic rifles, trigger locks and gun-show sales. During her two days of testimony, however, she said it was "settled law" that individuals have a right under the Constitution to own a handgun.
The NRA also noted that it would "score" the Senate vote on Kagan's confirmation, meaning the organization will view a vote in her favor as a lack of commitment to gun rights. The lobby group made the same threat last year for the floor vote on the nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who ultimately was confirmed by a 68-31 vote, with several pro-gun senators supporting her.
A panel of former military officers sharply criticized Kagan for her decision, while dean of Harvard Law School, to briefly deny recruiters for the armed forces use of the school's career services office because of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Kagan testified that veterans' groups on campus worked with the recruiters instead and that recruitment didn't suffer as a result. She eventually relented when the university was threatened with a loss of hundreds of millions of federal funds.
A former Bush administration lawyer and conservative law professor, Jack Goldsmith, argued for Kagan's confirmation, saying that Kagan would make an "outstanding" justice. Goldsmith, who helped craft antiterrorism policy at the Justice Department, was hired by Kagan at Harvard over objections by liberal professors.
Kagan's nomination will likely be voted on by the Judiciary Committee in mid July, with a Senate floor vote by early August.