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Kagan meets GOP critic, potential ally on Hill

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Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, left, meets with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, left, meets with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A leading Senate Republican said Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan told him Tuesday that thousands of pages of unreleased documents from her time serving in the Clinton administration would shed light on what kind of justice she would be.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said the Judiciary Committee shouldn't hold hearings on Kagan's confirmation until senators have a chance to read all the papers, currently held at the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock.

GOP senators have few clues about what Kagan's judicial style would be because she has never been a judge and has little courtroom experience. The former Harvard Law School dean, 50, stepped aside Monday from her job as solicitor general.

"What she told me is that 160,000 pages that we're going to see will reveal a lot of information ... about her views, about her attitudes, and her activities while serving at the White House" in the 1990s, Cornyn said after a closed-door meeting with Kagan.

Kagan, President Barack Obama's choice to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, returned to Capitol Hill Tuesday for courtesy calls with senators. She was also slated to meet with several supportive Democrats and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a potential ally despite past differences with Kagan over the treatment of terrorism detainees.

The South Carolinian was the architect in 2005 of a measure that strictly limited the rights of Guantanamo prisoners to challenge their detentions. Kagan, then at Harvard, signed a strongly worded letter with other academics criticizing the legislation, which was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Graham voted "pass" last year when the Judiciary Committee approved Kagan's nomination to be solicitor general, then missed her final confirmation vote. But he hinted last week that he might be persuaded to vote "yes" on making her a justice.

"I have been generally pleased with her job performance as solicitor general, particularly regarding legal issues related to the war on terror," Graham said in a statement, adding he would be "fair and firm" in questioning her.

Graham has shown a willingness to buck his party on big issues. He broke with most Republicans last year to back Obama's first Supreme Court pick, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Kagan has already met with nearly a fifth of the Senate — most of them members of the Judiciary panel — since Obama tapped her.

Democrats have more than enough votes to confirm her, and Republicans, seven of whom voted to make her solicitor general, say for now they're not inclined to try to block a vote.