The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee said Thursday that the Obama administration is fueling speculation about Supreme CourtJustice Elena Kagan’s impartiality because it won’t turn over documents detailing her role in crafting the legal strategy to defend the health care law while she was serving in the administration.
Rep. Lamar Smith, the committee chairman, told Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that emails show Justice Kagan took an interest in the case in January 2010, when she was solicitor general, and he demanded to know what role she played between then and March 2010, when Mr. Obama tapped her to sit on the high court.
“The issue is, how involved was she in health care discussions between Jan. 8 and March 5? Just as President Nixon had an 18½-minute gap, does Ms. Kagan have a two-month gap?” Mr. Smith, Texas Republican, said.
Conservative groups have called for Justice Kagan to recuse herself from ruling on the case challenging the constitutionality of Mr. Obama’s health care law, which the Supreme Court last month said it will consider next year.
Mr. Smith has requested a fuller explanation of Justice Kagan’s role. He said the Justice Department had denied his request but never cited any legal privilege to withhold information.
Mr. Holder told the committee that department officials tried to wall offJustice Kagan from conversations once they knew she was under consideration for the Supreme Court.
“My memory is whenever we had conversations about the health care bill, then-Solicitor General Kagan was not present,” he said.
But Mr. Smith said that walling off wouldn’t have occurred until March, leaving the two-month gap he questioned.