Republicans will call three military witnesses to testify against Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Capitol Hill next week, an indication they plan to highlight her dispute with the military over recruiters' access to Harvard Law School's campus while she was dean.
The GOP abruptly scrapped plans Friday evening to call a retired Army general who drew criticism for church speeches casting the war on terrorism in religious terms to make the case against Kagan in Judiciary Committee hearings scheduled to begin Monday.
Just hours after announcing he would testify, Republicans said Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin's past comments painting the war on terror as a Christian fight against Satan and suggesting that Muslims worship idols would distract from Kagan's actions.
But they kept plans to call three other military witnesses who are expected to strongly criticize Kagan's decision to bar recruiters from the Harvard Law career services office over the prohibition on openly gay soldiers.
Both sides were gearing up for a week's worth of politically charged exchanges on the qualifications of President Barack Obama's nominee, the role of judges in society and hot-button issues ranging from gun rights to gay marriage.
Democrats said they would call conservative supporters of Kagan as witnesses, in an apparent bid to bolster their argument that she's a mainstream pick.
The White House said Kagan, who once blasted Supreme Court nominees for stonewalling important questions, would be forthcoming during her own hearings.
"She's going to be in a position to talk knowledgeably and in depth, but clearly and effectively, to the range of questions that are appropriately asked of a Supreme Court nominee," White House Counsel Bob Bauer told reporters in a conference call.
Aides noted that Kagan has drawn endorsements from some leading conservative lawyers and academics, but sidestepped a question about whether Kagan is a liberal.
"Every justice has a point of view that they bring to the bench. The question is are they going to decide issues on the merits and ... in an impartial way," presidential adviser David Axelrod said. "Yes, Elena Kagan will absolutely do that."
Republican senators and a vocal group of conservative interest groups, including anti-abortion rights organizations and a military group working to keep the ban on openly gay soldiers, portray Kagan as just the opposite.
Her opponents argue that Kagan's background as a White House lawyer and domestic policy adviser to former President Bill Clinton makes her unfit to be a justice.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Kagan's work on Clinton's "aggressive gun-control agenda" is worrisome to gun-rights supporters.
"Elena Kagan's record raises concerns that she will be a reliable vote against Americans' right to keep and bear arms," said Cornyn, who added that he would question the nominee about "her commitment to protecting Second Amendment rights."
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, wrote in an editorial that there was "no justification" for Kagan's stance on military recruiting at Harvard.
Sessions circulated a letter Friday from Military Families United that blasted Kagan for the move.
"(W)e find Ms. Kagan's failure to offer support to our military in a time of war and her willingness to defy federal law as troubling and appalling," wrote the group, which says it represents soldiers' families.
The organization didn't take a position on Kagan's confirmation, but urged senators to demand answers from Kagan on the episode during next week's hearings. Another group, the Center for Military Readiness, is advocating a filibuster of Kagan over the issue.
The controversy arose because the military's prohibition against openly gay soldiers — which Kagan denounced strongly — violated Harvard's policy against employers who discriminate in hiring. Kagan said recruiters could work only through campus military and veterans' groups to make contact and conduct interviews with interested students. But the Pentagon said that made Harvard ineligible for federal funding under a law requiring schools to give the military the same access that other employers had.
The military witnesses Republicans plan to call next week are retired Air Force Col. Thomas N. Moe; Pete Hegseth, an Iraq war veteran who heads the conservative group Vets for Freedom; and Army veteran Flagg Youngblood, who has written that Kagan is anti-military.
Also testifying for Republicans are conservative activists including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.
Democrats, who argue Kagan will be a consensus-builder on the court, are calling Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith, one of the noted conservatives Kagan added to the faculty when she was dean of the school. Also set to testify is Greg Garre, who served as solicitor general under former President George W. Bush.
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