The National Rifle Association said Thursday it will count the Senate vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as part of its influential legislative score card on how members of Congress stand on gun-rights issues.
The NRA opposes her, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another powerful lobby not prone to siding with the White House on every issue, endorsed Judge Sotomayor Thursday.
The politically potent gun-rights group said it is concerned about Judge Sotomayor's stance on Second Amendment rights and her rulings as an appellate judge, including one upholding a New York law that barred a man from carrying a martial-arts weapon.
"From the outset, the National Rifle Association respected the confirmation process and hoped for mainstream answers to bedrock questions," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and Executive Director Chris Cox, wrote in a letter to senators.
"Unfortunately, Judge Sotomayor's judicial record and testimony during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings clearly demonstrate a hostile view of the Second Amendment and the fundamental right of self-defense guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution."
Although not expected to derail the confirmation of President Obama's first Supreme Court pick, the decision could mean political headaches for lawmakers of both parties who often tout perfect NRA voting records in their campaigns. The NRA previously had announced its opposition to Judge Sotomayor but had not stated whether it would "score" the vote in its rankings.
The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, a leading gun-control group, wasted no time in calling the NRA announcement a test of the gun lobby's political clout, saying a Sotomayor confirmation would dent the NRA's reputation as the "Death Star of D.C. lobbying."
Meanwhile, the White House touted the chamber endorsement. Judge Sotomayor worked as a corporate lawyer in the 1980s before becoming a federal judge.
"Consistent with her recent testimony, we expect Judge Sotomayor to engage in fair and even-handed application of the laws affecting American businesses," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said Thursday.
Five Senate Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have said they will vote to confirm Judge Sotomayor, and all or virtually all of the Senate's 58 Democrats and two independents are expected to support her as well.
Ten Senate Republicans have already said they plan to vote against Judge Sotomayor.