Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told ABC News' "This Week" that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan "violated the law" by not allowing military recruiting on the Harvard Law School campus when she was dean there, and added the issue is "no little-bitty matter."
But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., appearing on "This Week" with Sessions, dismissed the argument as "sound and fury signifying nothing."
The controversy revolves around Kagan's decision to prohibit military recruiting directly on the law school's campus because the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy prohibiting gays from openly serving in the armed forces violated Harvard Law School's anti-discrimination policy.
When the Supreme Court ruled that a law tying federal funding of schools to military recruiting was constitutional, Kagan allowed on-campus military recruiting to resume so the school wouldn't lose funding.
Asked about the issue by host Jake Tapper, Sessions, R-Ala., said, "This is no little-bitty matter, Jake. She would not let them come to the area that does the recruiting on the campus. They had to meet with some student veterans, and this is not acceptable. It was a big error.
"That went on for a number of years," Sessions said. "It was a national issue. People still remember the debate about it.
"She reversed the policy," Sessions said. "When she became dean, they were allowing the military to come back on campus and had been for a couple of years."
Leahy insisted that the whole affair was much ado about nothing.
"Well, this is like in Shakespeare," he said. "Sound and fury signifying nothing. The recruiters were always on the Harvard campus. She's shown her respect for the veterans there. ... Recruiting went on at Harvard every single day throughout the time she was there."
Sessions strongly disagreed.
"She disallowed them from the normal recruitment process on campus. She went out of her way to do so," he told Tapper. "She was a national leader in that, and she violated the law of the United States at various points in the process."
Other Republican voices have been even sharper.
"She, as Dean of the Harvard Law School, took an effort to block the American military from the Harvard campus all the way to the Supreme Court during a war," former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Saturday night an NRA convention. "And that is an act so unbecoming of an American that she should be disqualified from the very beginning."
Kagan, currently serving as solicitor general, wrote vividly about her decision regarding military recruiting in 2005 in a letter addressed to the Harvard Law School community.
"I have said before how much I regret making this exception to our antidiscrimination policy. I believe the military's discriminatory employment policy is deeply wrong -- both unwise and unjust. And this wrong tears at the fabric of our own community by denying an opportunity to some of our students that other of our students have," Kagan wrote. "The importance of the military to our society -- and the great service that members of the military provide to all the rest of us -- heightens, rather than excuses, this inequity."