White House Touts Nominee, Releases Kagan Papers

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Senators are plowing through reams of files detailing Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's background and record as they search for clues to what kind of justice she would be.

Kagan, President Barack Obama's pick to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, was to return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for one-on-one meetings with the senators who will vote on her confirmation.

The White House on Tuesday sent the Senate Judiciary Committee thousands of pages of Kagan's speeches and writings, including her work as solicitor general and her articles as an undergraduate staff writer on Princeton University's campus newspaper.

The papers were a response to a questionnaire sent to Kagan by the judiciary panel, which will hold hearings on her confirmation. They were released as the White House tried to paint a fuller picture of Obama's nominee, whose thin record of legal writings has left Republicans and even some Democrats suspicious of her views.

Obama's team arranged a conference call for reporters Wednesday with former Clinton administration aides to discuss Kagan's "character and qualifications" for the Supreme Court.

Kagan's work as a domestic policy adviser and associate White House counsel to former President Bill Clinton has raised doubts among lawmakers in both parties.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., wrote Tuesday to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the committee's top Republican, urging them to fully question Kagan to make sure she supports abortion rights, in light of her backing as a Clinton aide for a ban on most late-term abortions.

Slaughter, the co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, called a 1997 memo Kagan co-wrote on the matter "troubling." The document urged Clinton to back a ban on all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk.

Kagan's responses to the Judiciary Committee questionnaire include documents that could shed light on her views and legal approach. But GOP senators want to know more about Kagan's service during the Clinton years.

Some 160,000 pages from her time as a domestic policy adviser and associate White House counsel are expected to be released in the coming weeks by the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.

Without those documents, senators say they have few clues about what Kagan's judicial style would be, given her limited courtroom experience. Kagan, 50, stepped aside Monday from her job as solicitor general, in which she represented the Obama administration before the Supreme Court.

She has met with more than one-fifth of the Senate, where Democrats have more than enough votes to push through her confirmation and Republicans have so far shown little appetite for mounting a filibuster that could block her.

This program aired on May 19, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.