Activists and lawmakers are actively courting Tea Party groups to weigh in on Elena Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some conservative activists, including Curt Levey of the conservative Committee for Justice and Gary Marx, executive director of the Judicial Crisis Network, have said they hope the surging Tea Party will play a role in the Senate’s consideration of Kagan. “I think it could certainly give the Republican senators even greater backbone to push for a strong debate,” Marx said.
Tea Party coordinators this week said they’re still assessing Kagan’s nomination, and it isn’t yet apparent whether it will become a priority for them. Mark Meckler, a California-based coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, a national group, said any efforts by the group to defeat Kagan’s nomination would have to start at the local level, and he hasn’t yet heard a push to do so. “I think they’ll be realistic,” he said of local coordinators. “Elections have consequences and the president has the right to appoint justices to the Supreme Court. I don’t believe they will have unrealistic expectations. A justice on the left is being replaced by a president on the left.”
Meckler said the group will, at some point, put out a statement on principles Tea Party members can apply to evaluate the Kagan nomination “and then we hope people will apply those principles and make their own decision.”
At least one member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has reached out to the tea party for its view on Kagan. David Kirkham, a Utah Tea Party coordinator, said a staffer for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked about the nomination while calling about another matter.
“They called and said, ‘Hey, what do you think of Kagan?’” Kirkham recalled. He said he told Hatch’s staff that he had been too focused on the challenge to Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who lost his party’s nomination last weekend, and “we’re just now starting to get to look at that.”
Since Bennett’s loss, speculation has centered on Hatch as a potential target for anti-incumbent sentiment. Kirkham acknowledged that, but said that Hatch has made a great effort to reach out to him and other activists, something he said has tempered their anger.
Kirkham said Kagan has “wonderful credentials,” though he said he’s disturbed by her stance on military recruiters while dean of Harvard Law School. Other than that, he said, he believes most Utah Tea Party activists will watch the hearings primarily to make sure that Kagan is not “an activist judge” who would expand federal power. But Kirkham said he would not oppose her confirmation otherwise. “I think the dance that Hatch is going to have to play is, he’d better make sure there’s no skeletons hanging in the closet if he votes for her, which of course is what any senator should do,” Kirkham said.
Hatch, one of seven Republicans who voted to confirm Kagan as solicitor general last year, met with Kagan on Wednesday.
Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Hatch, said that Hatch seeks out views from constituents, but “politics does not play a role in his decision making process in terms of the Supreme Court.” As for the Tea Party, she said that they are “a very critical part of America’s political discourse. He thinks they’re frankly needed because people in Washington need to start listening to their concerns. He is glad there is this movement in Utah, and he hopes this movement really does wake Washington back up to address the serious problems that our country is facing.”
Carrie Levine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.