President Barack Obama introduces Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his choice for Supreme Court Justice in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday May 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Elena Kagan, President Obama's nominee to replace the retiring John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, begins her confirmation hearings before the Senate today. Since she's been nominated, speculation has run rampant about her views on many legal questions because of her scant paper trail and lack off dicial experience. What kind of information will the public actually get from the hearings?
The New York Times hopes that both parties will take the opportunity to actually press Kagan on her views. "Democrats have the tougher task, and should not stick to inoffensive questions. They have much at stake in holding back the aggressive activism of the Roberts court, which will soon have to rule on the health care law, the rights of corporations, and the evolving balance between civil liberties and national security. Both parties should cast aside their talking points and try to illuminate the authentic mind of Elena Kagan. Her moment to oblige them has finally arrived."
The Wall Street Journal believes that Kagan should be pressed on what she considers to be the limits of government power in light of the recent, sweeping changes to the nation's health care laws. "Ms. Kagan's views matter in particular because one of the most important cases she'd confront on the Court is the legal challenge by some 20 states to ObamaCare. They are challenging that law on grounds that if Congress can compel all Americans to buy health insurance then there is nothing left of the Constitution's government of limited and enumerated powers. On this point, someone should ask Ms. Kagan whether Congress has the power to force individuals to buy certain cars—say, Chrysler's, now that the U.S. taxpayer has bailed out that auto maker?"
E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post wants progressives to use the hearings as a way to change the framing of the debate over the role of the court. "But if Kagan's job is to get confirmed, the task of progressive members of the Senate Judiciary Committee is to reverse the effects of years of conservative propagandizing over the stakes in our debates about the nation's highest court. They will be pushing the narrative away from the hot-button social issues that have been a distraction from the main game: the use of the Supreme Court as a redoubt against progressive legislation, the right of plaintiffs to call corporations to account before juries and the ability of the political system to protect itself against corruption."
Ramesh Ponnuru of the conservative National Review thinks that cultural issues like abortion can't be overlooked during the proceedings. "Does it matter that Kagan appears to be a committed pro-abortion extremist? Not if we had convincing evidence that her legal views are distinct from her policy views; otherwise yes."