- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

The confirmation prospects of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor appeared good Sunday as one Democratic senator said he expects her to receive more votes than the hefty majority of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and as Republicans indicated they don’t expect a filibuster.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday starts the confirmation hearing of Judge Sotomayor to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. Judge Sotomayor, a longtime federal judge, has met with 89 senators.

“She has wowed people,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “She is going to be approved by a large margin.”

Mr. Schumer predicted Judge Sotomayor, who would become the first Hispanic member of the nation’s high court, likely would garner more support than Mr. Roberts, who received 78 votes in 2005.

Related article: Sotomayor’s Senate hearings start Monday

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said he doubts Judge Sotomayor will have a fate similar to that of another Hispanic nominee to the federal bench, Miguel Estrada, whose confirmation was filibustered by Democrats seven times.

“We’re not going to filibuster Judge Sotomayor like the Democrats did Miguel Estrada, who would have been on the Supreme Court, I would have predicted, if he had not been filibustered and denied an up-or-down vote,” Mr. Cornyn said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think she’ll have an up-or-down vote.”

A filibuster would be unlikely even if it were favored by Republicans as it would require 41 votes, which is increasingly difficult now that Senate Democrats have a caucus of 60 with the seating of Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

Judge Sotomayor is expected to face questions from Republicans on several past comments that suggest her racial background influences her interpretation of the law. In particular, one statement she made in a 2001 speech has been a lightning rod for controversy: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

“She has advocated a view that suggests that your personal experiences, even prejudices — she uses that word — it’s expected that they would influence a decision you make, which is a blow, I think, at the very ideal of American justice,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and the Judiciary panel’s top GOP member, said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “I am really flabbergasted by the depth and consistency of her philosophical critique of the ideal of impartial justice.”

But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, shrugged off Mr. Sessions’ concerns as “grasping at straws.”

“I’ve asked her about her speeches, and she said, ultimately and completely, the law controls. And as a judge, she’s shown over and over again that, ultimately and completely, the law controls,” he said alongside Mr. Sessions on “Face the Nation.” “Anything else is nitpicking.”

Mr. Leahy also stressed that Judge Sotomayor has been a judge longer than anybody who’s gone on the Supreme Court in almost 100 years.

Republicans also raised familiar concerns about Judge Sotomayor’s decision in the case of a group of white firefighters who said they were improperly denied a promotion because of race. The Supreme Court recently overturned her order, siding with the New Haven, Conn., firefighters.

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