Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's testimony before senators could be make or break because there's not much else to go on from a would-be justice without judicial experience, the GOP point man on her confirmation hearings said Sunday. "She has so little other record, this is going to be a big deal," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. "It's so important how she testifies."
The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said he would meet this week with Sessions, the committee's top Republican, to decide when to begin the hearings on President Barack Obama's second nominee to the high court.
Kagan is now solicitor general, the top government lawyer who argues the administration's cases before the Supreme Court. She would succeed the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
Leahy, D-Vt., noted that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor both were nominated in the spring and confirmed long before October, when the court begins its annual term. "If we could follow a schedule roughly like that, we'll be done this summer," he said.
Sessions said he planned to question Kagan, a former Harvard Law School dean, about the school's barring military recruiters over the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy while she was in charge.
GOP senators have said the decision — which Sessions said came about because of Kagan's "deep personal belief" that the ban on gays serving openly in the military was wrong — casts doubt on Kagan's fitness for the bench.
"This is no little-bitty matter," Sessions said. "She would not let them come to the area that does the recruiting on the campus. ... This is not acceptable. It was a big error."
To Leahy, it was "sound and fury signifying nothing." He said conservative interest groups are trying to come up with an issue that could possibly slow down Kagan's confirmation.
"I realize you have so many special interest groups on the far right or the far left who have points," Leahy said. "Ignore those. We ought to make up our own mind. We should be bright enough to do it."
Sessions also said senators should tread carefully when it comes to questions about a nominee's personal life.
"I don't believe that is a fundamental judgment call on whether a person can be a good judge or not," Sessions said.
What's important, Sessions said, is whether they can "restrain their personal political views and follow the law faithfully and serve under the Constitution? That's the fundamental test in personal integrity. So those are questions that go to the heart of whether a person will be an able judge or not," he said.
The senators appeared on ABC's "This Week."
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