Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan made a key advance toward confirmation Thursday, winning praise from a moderate Senate Republican, while easing the concerns of another about her view of the military.
The solicitor general met with several senators, including Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.). Most of the senators indicated after meeting with Kagan that she had the requisite experience and judicial acumen to serve on the Court.
"I was very impressed with Ms. Kagan," Collins said. "I do not believe her lack of judicial experience in any way disqualifies her."
Collins also said Kagan had the right judicial philosophy to serve on the Court. "I was pleased to hear...she viewed the Court as having a limited role," she said.
Collins said she would wait until the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its confirmation hearings before making her decision on the nominee. But, she did offer a hint about Republican strategy regarding the nomination. "At this point, I do not see any grounds for a filibuster," she said.
Kagan made progress in gaining Brown's support by apparently allaying his concerns over her opposition to the campus presence of military recruiters when she was dean of Harvard Law School because of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
Brown said Kagan had "honestly" answered his questions about the controversy and said that after meeting with Kagan, "it was very clear to me that she would be supportive of the men and women who are fighting to protect us."
The issue of Kagan's stance on that issue emerged as a potential point of contention with Senate Republicans after Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, described her opposition to the recruiters as "a big mistake."
Brown did not reveal where he is leaning with his vote on Kagan's confirmation. "I'm going to continue to evaluate her and reserve my decision," he said.
Kagan also garnered further support from Senate Democrats. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered an effusive evaluation of her. He countered suggestions that she does not have sufficient experience for the Court.
"I think if you had to pick some practical experience that would help you be a good Supreme Court justice, running a large law school is probably a pretty good thing," he said.
Conversely, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who last year voted against Kagan's confirmation as solicitor general, was more circumspect in his assessment of her nomination. He said they did agree that the Supreme Court had not showed proper "deference" to Congress in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which lifted the ban on corporate spending on political candidates, and that the Court should take more cases.
Specter, who faces a tight primary election next Tuesday, did not indicate whether he would vote for her confirmation this time around. "She's a good candidate... that doesn't constitute a commitment on the vote," he said.
But the senator did reveal that during their meeting, Kagan had criticized one current justice for being "less than forthcoming" during confirmation hearings. Specter declined to say which justice Kagan was referring to. Kagan drew attention to her views on judicial confirmation hearings in 1995, when she described them as a "vapid and hollow charade" in a University of Chicago Law Review article.
Democrats Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) indicated they would vote for Kagan's confirmation. Klobuchar said Kagan's confirmation would sway the balance of power in the Court.
"I believe she'll be an intellectual counterweight to Justice Roberts," she said. "When you look at some of those recent cases, including the Citizens United case... having someone with real-world experience, that could've made a difference in that case."