Vice President Biden: No 'Anti-Military Bias' in Elena Kagan's Decision as Harvard Law Dean

Sen. Jeff Sessions assailed nominee's decision to block military recruiters.

ByABC News via GMA logo
May 11, 2010, 6:17 AM

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2010 — -- Vice President Joe Biden today defended Solicitor General Elena Kagan's decision to block military recruiters from campus as dean of Harvard Law School, even as Republicans such as Sen. Jeff Sessions condemned her decision.

"She was right" in making that decision, Biden said on "Good Morning America" today. "This is not a single bit of anti-military bias."

Biden said he agreed with Kagan that "Don't Ask Don't Tell," which prevents those who are open gay and lesbian from serving in the military, is a "very bad policy."

Sessions argued that Kagan's decision was in conflict with the Solomon Amendment, a federal law first passed in 1994 that denied some funding to institutions that prevent military recruitment on campus. The Alabama senator said it was "unthinkable" to him that Kagan, who was nominated Monday by President Obama for Supreme Court justice, would block military recruiters from campus just because she disagreed with the government's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

"I believe she absolutely was wrong," Sessions said on "Good Morning America."

"I think she's going to have to answer that" in the confirmation hearings," he added. "I don't say that's the only thing that would affect my vote, no. But it's a sore spot with me because I worked hard to pass the Solomon amendment to try to make sure we ended that practice, and she resisted it even after it passed."

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Harvard Law School for years banned the U.S. military from recruiting on campus, except through Harvard Law School Veterans Association. It overturned the policy in 2003 because of the Solomon Amendment. Kagan, who has spoken openly against "Don't Ask Don't Tell," kept that revised policy but then signed onto a coalition of universities that challenged the Solomon Amendment as unconstitutional in court. In 2004, after a court's ruling for the coalition, Kagan reinstated the ban. But the Supreme Court ruled for the Solomon Amendment in 2005, forcing Kagan to turn back that policy.

Sessions also questioned Kagan's political affiliations and experience.

"We know she is a very active political Democrat on the left side of the Democratic party, so we need to be sure those political views are not going to infect her judicial rulings when she puts on that robe," he said.

An overwhelming majority of Republicans voted "no" on Kagan, 50, for solicitor general and many are expressing skepticism about her lack of judicial experience and controversial views.

"This is a weak background as far as the kind of proven experience as a disciplined lawyer or judge," said Sessions, the ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "This lady is not disqualified. I'm just saying her background is clearly thin."

Biden argued that Kagan's not serving as a judge, like most other Supreme Court justices, should not be a "deal breaker." He cited the examples of Justices William Rehnquist and Thurgood Marshall as some who hadn't had that kind of judicial experience.

"Thank God there have been people other than just circuit court of appeals judges," he said. "I think it is a great asset she has, and she is unquestionably academically qualified. ... She is supremely qualified."

"She is Main Street," Biden added. "This is a woman who has lived in the real world."

Republicans acknowledged that they will unlikely to be able to block Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court, but they will put up quite a fight and Sessions said today it is premature to say the confirmation will be easy.

"This is a confirmation process, not a coronation," he said.

Sessions said the biggest question Republicans have, given Kagan's lack of trial experience, is whether she will be "committed to the law." But he would not say whether he will vote for or against her.

"We need to know is she committed to the law or does she share the view of some that judges can divine social changing circumstances or international law to alter the meaning of the words of our Constitution?" he said.