June 28 (Reuters) - If history is any indication, lawmakers will do much, if not most, of the talking at U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s Senate confirmation hearing, set to begin on Monday.
Here’s a look at some of those on the 19-member Senate Judiciary Committee -- 12 Democrats and seven Republicans -- who will question Kagan on legal issues and likely offer their own views:
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat
A member of the committee since 1979, Leahy has participated in the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court’s current members.
He voted against two, conservatives Clarence Thomas nominated by President George H.W. Bush and Samuel Alito nominated President George W. Bush.
Leahy predicts that Kagan will be confirmed but that several Republicans will likely oppose her to placate members of their conservative base.
Republican Jeff Sessions
As the committee’s top Republican, Sessions will lead what promises to be some tough questioning of Kagan.
“This is not a coronation. It’s a confirmation to what may be a 30- or 40-year life career on the federal bench, on the United States Supreme Court,” Sessions said.
“We have a nominee that has a very liberal background, a very aggressive, progressive background,” Sessions added.
Democrat Arlen Specter
Before bolting the Republican Party and becoming a Democrat last year, Specter voted against Obama’s nomination of Kagan as solicitor general. He complained that she was less than forthcoming at her confirmation hearing.
But Specter said Kagan was very forthcoming at a private meeting they had shortly after Obama picked her for the Supreme Court and before Specter was defeated in a Democratic primary for re-election.
Republican Jon Kyl
Kyl, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, has joined other members of his party in complaining about Kagan’s liberal leanings.
But Kyl has indicated that he does not see Republicans trying to raise a procedural roadblock against Kagan. Kyl and other Republicans will make a final decision on a procedural roadblock after the hearing.
Democrat Charles Schumer
As previous chairman of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, Schumer helped his party win control of the chamber in 2006 and expand its hold in 2008 to 59 of 100 seats. Sixty are needed to clear Republican procedural hurdles.
“The American public will have a chance to see what we on the committee have been learning over the last few months -- and that is that Elena Kagan will be a superb Supreme Court justice who will give us legal excellence and judicial moderation,” Schumer said recently.
Republican Orrin Hatch
A former committee chairman, Hatch joined the Senate majority last year in confirming Obama’s nomination of Kagan as U.S. solicitor general.
Hatch has said he is not sure if he will vote to confirm Kagan as a member of the court.
In a Senate speech last week, Hatch said: “I want to pin down, as best I can, what kind of Justice Ms. Kagan would be. ... Will she care more about the judicial process or the political results?”
Democrat Dick Durbin
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Durbin will try to muster the votes for Kagan to win confirmation.
At a Capitol Hill news conference last week, Durbin cited a recent study that concluded the high court has several of its most conservative members -- Thomas, Alito, John Roberts and Antonin Scalia.
“Elena Kagan has earned a reputation as a consensus builder,” Durbin said. “These qualities are needed now more than ever on the Supreme Court.”
Republican Lindsey Graham
Graham was one of only nine Republicans to vote last year for Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, and is expected to be among those who vote to confirm Kagan.
After Obama nominated Kagan, Graham issued a statement saluting the academic record of the former Harvard Law School dean and praising her performance as solicitor general, particularly regarding legal issues in the “war on terror.”
“As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I intend to be fair and firm in my questioning of the nominee. The hearings can be a valuable public service as they give us a window into the nominee’s judicial philosophy and disposition,” he said.
Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse
Whitehouse is an outspoken critic of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who was confirmed in 2005, a year before Whitehouse was elected to Congress.
In a Senate speech last week, Whitehouse noted that Roberts, during his confirmation hearing, likened the job of a judge to a baseball umpire, one who calls balls and strikes without taking sides.
Whitehouse said, however, Roberts’ strike zone seems to be smaller for individuals than big corporations. In fact, Whitehouse cited an examination of the court’s record that found that “in every major case since he became the nation’s 17th chief justice, Roberts has sided with the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.”
Republican John Cornyn
A white-haired Texan who wears cowboy boots, Cornyn looks like a rugged judge. In fact, prior to being elected to the Senate in 2002, he served as a Texas Supreme Court justice.
Cornyn voiced concerns on Friday about Kagan’s record on gun control while serving as a lawyer in the Clinton White House. He expressed fear that on the court she would be “a reliable vote against Americans’ right to bear arms.”
“America’s gun owners deserve to know if they can trust the same person who coordinated Bill Clinton’s aggressive gun-control agenda to interpret and define the contours of the Second Amendment for decades to come,” Cornyn said.
Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by David Alexander and Philip Barbara
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