- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Senate Republicans waded cautiously into a possible Supreme Court confirmation fight with President Obama, promising a fair hearing of nominee Sonia Sotomayor while vowing “careful scrutiny” of her qualifications and her ability to render impartial judgments.

The focus on whether Judge Sotomayor can remain neutral underscores criticism from conservatives that her rulings on the U.S. Court of Appeals were biased regarding women and race.

“Of primary importance, we must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one’s own personal preferences or political views,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that will hold hearings on the nomination.

Mr. Sessions, who spoke to Mr. Obama early Tuesday morning about the nomination, said he told the president that Judge Sotomayor will receive a fair hearing. But he said the committee will need months to fully vet the nominee.

Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Judiciary Committee, urged his colleagues and the press not to “pre-judge or pre-confirm Ms. Sotomayor,” but allow for a thorough confirmation process.

“It is my hope that the process will allow her to prove herself to possess the impartiality, integrity, legal expertise and judicial temperament that we have come to expect from those that sit on our highest court,” the Texas Republican said. “She must prove her commitment to impartially deciding cases based on the law, rather than based on her own personal politics, feelings, and preferences.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed the pledge to a give Judge Sotomayor a fair hearing, but stressed she must prove “she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.”

Democrats roundly applauded the pick.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, promised to “do all I can to ensure Judge Sonia Sotomayor receives a fair and respectful hearing and the Senate’s quick confirmation.”

He called Judge Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic and third woman to sit on the Supreme Court, an “accomplished, qualified and experienced nominee [with] wide-ranging experience not only in the legal world, but in the real world as well.”

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