To reach Supreme Court, first court the senators

May 13, 2010

Elena Kagan is making the rounds.

To get a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, a nominee must first wear out a lot of shoe leather on Capitol Hill. And smile, smile, smile.

USA/So that’s precisely what President Barack Obama’s choice for the high court has been doing this week. While Kagan is considered likely to get Senate confirmation, nothing is ever guaranteed in this process – remember President George W. Bush’s nominee Harriet Miers?

The other hard-and-fast rule of these Hill chats is that afterward the senators talk, the Supreme Court nominee doesn’t.

So let’s take a look at what the senators took away from their meetings with Kagan.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a Democrat who used to be a Republican, said Kagan agreed with him that the court takes too few cases and erred this year in a landmark ruling that struck down campaign finance limits. “She said she felt that the court was not sufficiently deferential to Congress” in the Citizens United case, Specter said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said the meeting left him confident that Kagan was the right choice to replace Justice John Paul Stevens. “She has a strong belief that the Supreme Court should be a forum where the rule of law wins out and where people from every walk of life can receive a fair hearing.”

And this video is an example of the sort of  pleasantries exchanged during these courtesy calls – Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, points out a gun hanging in his office to Kagan.

The process has just begun and many more Senate doors to knock on…

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan meets with Senator Patrick Leahy), Reuters/Larry Downing (Kagan meets with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell)

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