The first day of the Senate’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings is typically uneventful and barely watchable, consisting as it does of each member of the Judiciary Committee giving their opening statements, which become redundant almost immediately. The prevailing theme for Republicans today was that Kagan’s judicial philosophy remains unknown, and, consequently, Kagan’s beliefs will be interrogated especially closely. Democrats, meanwhile, took this opportunity to highlight what they call the judicial activism of the current court, especially with regard to pro-business decisions like Citizens United. And everyone brought up Kagan’s 1995 paper in which she decried the “vapid and hollow charade” that confirmation hearings had become. Because you probably were not one of the half-dozen people to watch the whole thing, we’ve boiled down the essence of each senator’s opening statement into a single sentence for your convenience.
Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) — The Supreme Court is very important to democracy, except when it makes terrible decisions like Citizens United.
Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) — Kagan broke the law as Dean of Harvard Law School, she’s sad about the decline of socialism, she’s soft on terror, and she opposes freedom of speech.
Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) — We don’t really know anything about Kagan, but I’m looking forward to hearing more.
Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — There’s a lot we need to find out about Kagan, particularly whether she is going to rape the Constitution.
Dianne Feinstein (D-California) — Frankly, the current court could use some people who don’t know anything about being a judge.
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — Worryingly, Kagan made a lot of political decisions when she was a political adviser to President Clinton.
Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) — As a judge, Kagan must keep in mind the impact her decisions will have, so that she doesn’t make any awful decisions that ruin the country like Citizens United did.
Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) — President Obama wants judges who ignore the law in order to enact his progressive agenda, which is probably what Kagan will do.
Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) — The Supreme Court has been pretty lazy and should be deciding on a lot more cases.
Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) — Kagan is very smart, has done some things as solicitor general that I like, and has a knowledge of terror law that could help the court immensely.
Chuck Schumer (D-New York) — Kagan has been so open already and is so qualified, we can probably wrap this up pretty quickly.
Jon Cornyn (R-Texas) — There are two types of judges — traditionalists who follow the Constitution and activists who make up rights — and Kagan will have to prove that she’s not the latter.
Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) — Sometimes “activists” are conservative judges, so let’s not make sweeping statements about “activism.”
Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) — Kagan should try to unite all of America during these confirmation hearings with her honesty and openness.
Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) — The court must protect people from abuses of power.
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) — Kagan is probably going to be confirmed, and when once she is, she should not become a slave to the special interests.
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) — The court needs a real person who can bring real remedies to other real people with real problems.
Ted Kaufman (D-Delaware) — I also do not want Kagan to be an activist, corporate-friendly judge.
Al Franken (D-Minnesota) — The current court is full of activist conservative judges, like Clarence Thomas, who votes to overturns a law about every eight seconds.