4:51 p.m. EDT (1:51 p.m. PDT): After more than three hours, Elena Kagan, the solicitor general of the United States, got her chance to speak directly to the panel of senators who will weigh her nomination to be the next Supreme Court justice and promised to do her best and work hard while keeping her mind open to deal with contentious issues.
Kagan avoided taking any specific positions Monday on the contentious social issues on which she will likely rule, if confirmed. Nominated to become the 112th justice on the Supreme Court, she took a modest stand while promising to work impartially for justice for all.
Read more about Kagan's remarks to the senators here.
4:10 p.m. EDT (1:10 p.m. PDT): Following in the tradition of home state lawmakers introducing Supreme Court nominees, Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown offered warm praise for New Yorker-turned-Bay State-resident Elena Kagan.
Brown, who campaigned in the January special election for Senate promising to be the "41st vote" for Republicans, called President Obama's nominee "brilliant" and hailed her "impressive legal resume." But his remarks Monday were otherwise a simple overview of her resume, as the blue state Republican walked a fine line indicative of his status as a key swing vote in the chamber.
"This committee is about to embark on one of the most serious duties that the Senate is constitutionally tasked with: vetting the qualifications, temperament, and philosophy of a lifetime appointment," Brown said. "I look forward to Ms. Kagan's responses to the committee's questions. I know that I have some of my own."
Kerry, now the state's senior senator, recalled his first dealings with Kagan when she acted as a point person in the Clinton White House for negotiations on a contentious tobacco bill.
"It was a tutorial in consensus building from someone for whom it was pure instinct," Kerry said.
Kagan's ability to bridge ideological divides would be "an enormous asset" on the Supreme Court, he added.
-- Michael Memoli in Washington
3:29 p.m. EDT (12:29 p.m. PDT): Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) used his opening statement in Elena Kagan's confirmation hearing to criticize the Roberts court for rulings that he said blurred the line "between the legislative and judicial branches."
Cardin quoted from the dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, where he wrote that five justices in the majority "changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law."
In Citizens United, the court freed corporate and independent groups to spend as much as they wished on their own to elect or defeat candidates.
"I join him in wondering just how or why those who profess to oppose judicial activism have voiced their support for these Supreme Court decisions in which justices have overturned long-standing precedent and substituted their own legislative voices for Congress," Cardin said.
Cardin did praise the court's history for righting perceived wrongs, citing Loving vs. Virginia, which declared an anti-miscegenation statue unconstitutional, and Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion. He said the next justice should "be guided by legal precedent and the best traditions of the Supreme Court in advancing constitutional rights for individuals against the abuses of power whether by government or businesses."
The hearings took a 10-minute break following Cardin's statement. Four senators, all Democrats, were to make their statements after the short recess. Kagan will then give her opening statement, after being introduced by Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry, a Democrat, and Scott Brown, a Republican.
-- Michael Memoli in Washington
3:17 p.m. EDT (12:17 p.m. PDT): For Tom Coburn, the Republican senator from Oklahoma and a veteran of four previous Senate confirmation hearings for the nation's top court, the Elena Kagan proceedings are a chance for the American people to get to know the woman who wants to be on the nation's top court.
"I'm really going to want to know a lot about specific issues," Coburn said.
A doctor, Coburn is among the more conservative senators and a fierce opponent of abortion. He argued that the American people want to know Kagan's positions on specific issues and that Kagan had an obligation to be forthcoming.
"They ought to know Elena Kagan," he said Monday. "You have a chance to set a new course, a new precedent," he added, urging her to tell Americans her positions so that they can "once again find out what a justice is all about."
Kagan, of course, has famously termed such hearings a "charade," and an exercise in vapidity. Nominees who say less stand a better chance of confirmation and avoiding controversy is a survival skill.
"It is obvious that previous hearings have not been predictive," of performance on the court, Coburn noted. But if the nominee is not forthcoming, "Why should we do this dance?"
-- Michael Muskal in Los Angeles