Clearly, President Obama’s choice of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court came as no surprise to many. Reactions flooded my inbox before Obama was even done speaking. Here are some excerpts – in order that I received them – of statements reacting to Kagan’s nomination. Some interesting highlights: Mitch McConnell notes her “brief litigation experience,” John Podesta says she’ll be “a much-needed progressive voice on a Court dominated by conservatives,” and Orrin Hatch says his vote for her to be Solicitor General by no means guarantees his support for her nomination to the bench.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a GOP member of the Judiciary Committee:
“Solicitor General Kagan has a strong academic background in the law. I have been generally pleased with her job performance as Solicitor General, particularly regarding legal issues related to the War on Terror. I look forward to meeting her again, this time to discuss her qualifications to sit on the highest court in the land.
“As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I intend to be fair and firm in my questioning of the nominee. The hearings can be a valuable public service as they give us a window into the nominee’s judicial philosophy and disposition. I hope we will have a meaningful opportunity to explore the qualifications, judicial temperament, and judicial philosophy of Ms. Kagan.”
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee:
“I congratulate Elena Kagan on her nomination to the United States Supreme Court. I welcome President Obama’s decision to nominate someone to be the first Supreme Court justice from outside the judiciary since former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Lewis Powell. Ms. Kagan’s confirmation in 2009 as the first woman to become Solicitor General was an historic moment for our nation. As Solicitor General, Ms. Kagan has served the nation ably. Considering the impact the Supreme Court has on our country, I take very seriously my responsibility as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to evaluate a nominee. I look forward to reviewing thoroughly Ms. Kagan’s record, meeting with her and questioning her during what I hope will be a productive and informative confirmation process.”
Texas Senator John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee:
“There is no doubt that Ms. Kagan possesses a first-rate intellect, but she is a surprising choice from a president who has emphasized the importance of understanding ‘how the world works and how ordinary people live.’ Ms. Kagan has spent her entire professional career in Harvard Square, Hyde Park, and the DC Beltway. These are not places where one learns ‘how ordinary people live.’ Ms. Kagan is likewise a surprising choice because she lacks judicial experience. Most Americans believe that prior judicial experience is a necessary credential for a Supreme Court Justice.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele:
“Over the past year, the American people have been witness to President Obama’s massive expansion of the federal government into our daily lives. To assure the American people, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, will need to demonstrate that she is committed to upholding the vision of our Founding Fathers, who wrote a Constitution meant to limit the power of government, not expand it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
I am particularly pleased President Obama has chosen a nominee from outside the judicial monastery. I believe that through her confirmation process, Elena Kagan will demonstrate that her primary allegiance is to fairness, justice and the rule of law, not ideology. When Solicitor General Kagan is confirmed, the Supreme Court will have three sitting female Justices for the first time – a historic occurrence that is long overdue.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee:
“I will examine Ms. Kagan’s entire record to understand her judicial philosophy. My conclusion will be based on evidence, not blind faith. Her previous confirmation, and my support for her in that position, do not by themselves establish either her qualifications for the Supreme Court or my obligation to support her. I have an open mind and look forward to actively participating in the confirmation process.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:
“As we did with Justice Sotomayor last year, Senate Republicans will treat Ms. Kagan fairly. She has been nominated for a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court, and we will carefully review her brief litigation experience, as well as her judgment and her career in academia, both as a professor and as an administrator. Fulfilling our duty to advise and consent on a nomination to this office requires a thorough process, not a rush to judgment.
“The American people expect judges to apply the Constitution and laws of the United States fairly and impartially—as they are written, not how they could have been written but were not. Even though the President who nominates them has personal policy preferences, judges must not be a rubberstamp for any administration. Judges must not walk into court with a preconceived idea of who should win. Their job is to apply the law ‘without respect to persons,’ as the judicial oath states; it is not to pick winners or losers.”
John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress:
“As a friend and colleague of Elena Kagan for more than 20 years, I applaud her nomination to the Supreme Court. General Kagan is a first-rate intellect, a passionate legal scholar and a dedicated public servant—and she is both well-prepared and well-suited to serve on the nation’s highest Court.
“As my colleague in the White House, Elena Kagan worked tirelessly to expand opportunity for all Americans willing to work hard and play by the rules. She understands that the law imposes obligations on all Americans, and she will have no patience for well-heeled interest groups who believe that their wealth and influence should grant them immunity from the law.
“In this sense, Kagan is a welcome contrast to the narrow, conservative voices which dominate today’s Supreme Court. General Kagan forged a bipartisan consensus in favor of regulations preventing tobacco companies from marketing their products to children. Despite this consensus, a conservative 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court adopted an implausible reading of federal law to declare such regulations invalid in 2000. Unlike these conservative justices, Kagan understands that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what a powerful industry says it should be.
“In other words, General Kagan will be a much-needed progressive voice on a Court dominated by conservatives who believe in one set of laws for the powerful, and another set of laws for ordinary Americans. She will make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice.”
Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
“With this nomination, Elena Kagan follows in the footsteps of her mentor, Thurgood Marshall, who also was nominated to the Supreme Court from the position of Solicitor General. Ms. Kagan broke the glass ceiling when she was appointed as the first woman to serve as Solicitor General and also previously when she became the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School. Her historic accomplishments and the way she has conducted herself in these positions has earned her a place at the top of the legal profession.
“Elena Kagan’s nomination will bring to the Supreme Court a diversity of experience missing since Justice O’Connor retired in 2006. I have urged President Obama to look outside the judicial monastery to identify qualified nominees who will bring a diversity of life experience to the Court. Elena Kagan is just such a nominee.”
Human Rights Campaign:
“We applaud President Obama for choosing Elena Kagan to become our nation’s next U.S. Supreme Court Justice,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “The U.S. Supreme Court decides cases that intimately affect the lives of all Americans. We are confident that Elena Kagan has a demonstrated understanding and commitment to protecting the liberty and equality of all Americans, including LGBT Americans.
“Issues that are critical to the LGBT community may reach the Supreme Court in the next few years, including issues related to marriage equality, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the new federal hate crimes law. When issues like these come to the Supreme Court, it is vital that we have fair-minded judges to rule on these cases.”
David McIntosh, co-founder of the Federalist Society and former congressman from Indiana:
“I’m deeply disappointed that President Obama has chosen to nominate an individual who has demonstrated a lack of adherence to the limits of the Constitution and a desire to utilize the court system to enact her beliefs of social engineering. Solicitor General Kagan has been nominated with no judicial experience, a mere two years of private law practice, and only a year as Solicitor General of the United States. She is one of the most inexperienced nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court in recent memory.
“Ms. Kagan’s public comments should be highly disturbing to all Americans as they show what kind of a Justice she will be. She has been a vocal opponent of military recruiters on the Harvard Law School campus, placing political correctness above national security in a time of war. Ms. Kagan abandoned the will of the American people and the Congress by challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, proving she will merely rule based on her personal political preferences and not the law. President Obama has, once again, nominated an individual who places a higher premium on political progressivism than adherence to the set of laws that have made this country strong and free. For someone tragically inexperienced and activist, Ms. Kagan represents President Obama’s ideal of transforming the Supreme Court into a vehicle for social reform and judicial affirmative action.”
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, head of American’s United for Life:
“Elena Kagan has strong ties to abortion-advocacy organizations and expressed admiration for activist judges who have worked to advance social policy rather than to impartially interpret the law. Americans United for Life will oppose President Obama’s attempt to reshape the Court as an activist, pro-abortion institution through which unelected judges will work to impose an out-of-the-mainstream social agenda upon the American people.”