Senators to Query Kagan, But Don't Expect Answers

If Kagan follows the playbook for nominees, she won't be speaking her mind.

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One senator, Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, already has said he will oppose Kagan, partly because of that article. Inhofe said he was against Kagan because of "the seeming contempt she has demonstrated in her comments about the Senate confirmation process."

Senators place high value on their questions, which can be the last time a Supreme Court justice is required to answer questions from an elected official. However, they can't force the nominee to answer. They can only vote for or against the nominee, something senators have complained about for years when they haven't gotten the answers they wanted.

Senators also know that sometimes the answers they get from nominees don't necessarily foretell how a justice will rule when sitting on the court.

"We've seen nominees who tell us one thing during our private meetings and in the confirmation hearings and then go to the court and become a justice that is quite different from the way they've portrayed themselves at the hearing," Sen.Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said to then-nominee and now Justice Sonia Sotomayor at her confirmation hearing last year.

Senators plan to investigate Kagan's past and come up with questions they hope will make her reveal her judicial philosophy and provide some hint as to what kind of Justice she would be. Kagan would become the only member of the current court who had no prior experience as a judge, so she has no prior court decisions to scrutinize.

"Given that Ms. Kagan does not have a judicial record, it will be especially important for senators to inquire as to her views on the Constitution and the role of the court," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.