WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan told her confirmation hearings on Tuesday the Pentagon's recruiters had access to Harvard Law School students "every single day I was dean," adding that she believes military service is the most important way anyone can serve the country.
In the opening moments of daylong testimony, Miss Kagan volunteered that the only time she has cried since President Obama nominated her to the high court was when she read an op-ed article praising her for her treatment of the military, a commentary written by a Marine captain and 2008 graduate of Harvard Law.
Miss Kagan spoke in response to a question from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His query appeared designed to pre-empt any Republican attempt to accuse her of having banned military recruiters from the campus.
The 50-year old Obama administration solicitor general appears well on her way toward confirmation as the fourth woman justice in history, barring an unexpected error of major proportions. The Judiciary Committee will vote first on her nomination, and the full Senate is expected to vote in time for her to take her place before the court begins a new term next fall.
Responding to questions from Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Miss Kagan refused to describe her political views as "progressive in the mold" of the president who twice has appointed her to important jobs.
She also sidestepped when Mr. Sessions, citing a characterization by a senior White House official, sought to label her as a "legal progressive."
"I honestly don't know what that label means," she said. "I've served in two Democratic administrations. ... You can tell something about me and my political views from that."
Mr. Sessions returned Miss Kagan swiftly to the issue of military's presence at Harvard Law School, and a controversy that arose when she blocked recruiters from the campus career services office.
She has said she acted because the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars openly gay men and women from serving, was a violation of the university's anti-discrimination rules. As an alternative, she encouraged a campus veterans group to facilitate the Pentagon's recruitment of students.
Mr. Sessions disputed Miss Kagan's version of events, saying that for one recruiting season "you gave them (the Pentagon) the runaround. ... You've continued to persist with this view that somehow there was a loophole in the statute that Harvard didn't have to comply with."
Miss Kagan gave no ground, countering that "military recruiting went up that year, not down," when Pentagon's representatives worked through the veterans office on campus.