Senate Hearings Were Surprisingly Substantive

By Jeffrey Rosen, The New Republic - July 1, 2010

Far from turning into a “vapid and hollow charade,” to use Elena Kagan’s now-famous condemnation of other Supreme Court confirmation hearings, her own have been impressively substantive. But the most surprising development in the Kagan hearings this week has been the performance of the Senators: Both Democrats and Republicans have articulated clear visions of the law—Democrats say judges should uphold progressive legislation like campaign finance and health care; Republicans say they should strike those regulations down—and have pressed Kagan in sophisticated ways. 

My nominee for the best question comes from Senator Al Franken, who, although not a lawyer, has emerged as the leading progressive constitutionalist in the Senate. In his championing of net neutrality and opposition to the Comcast/NBC merger, Franken recognizes that private corporations, like Comcast, now have more power over who can speak than any government, and that the most important threats to free speech in the twenty-first century will come not from government but from the concentration of corporate power. “When the same company owns the programming and runs the pipes that bring us the programming, I think we have a problem,” Franken said to Kagan.


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