- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

With Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation all but sealed, Senate Democrats and Republicans are now locked in a contest over the size of the victory margin for President Obama’s first pick for the high court - a margin that will lay down some markers for future nominees.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is due to endorse the Bronx-born judge’s nomination Tuesday morning, and Democratic leaders have already won support from five moderate Republican senators and an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But Senate Republican leaders, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip Jon Kyl or Arizona, have strongly opposed Judge Sotomayor, a line most rank-and-file caucus members appear to be following.

Three more Republicans announced Monday that they would vote against Judge Sotomayor, in what is likely to become a benchmark for Mr. Obama’s potential future high court appointments.

“Senate Republicans put a premium on justices being an impartial arbiter of the law,” said John Ashbrook, spokesman for Mr. McConnell. “That won’t change with nominees that come along down the road.”

Republicans Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Jeff Sessions of Alabama became the latest lawmakers Monday to oppose Judge Sotomayor.

“A Sotomayor vote on the court will be a new vote for this new kind of ideological judging,” said Mr. Sessions in a floor speech decrying judicial activism.

But the strong signal from top Senate Republicans has not been enough to hold together the small caucus.

Of the Senate’s 40 Republican members, 15 have said they will oppose her, and five have said they will support her nomination. Twenty Republican senators have not announced their plans.

Recent votes for the high court have become increasingly partisan.

All three of President Reagan’s successful appointments to the bench were confirmed by the Senate unanimously. Both of President Clinton’s high court appointments received fewer than 10 “no” votes.

But both of President George W. Bush’s high court appointments - John G. Roberts Jr., now chief justice, and Samuel A. Alito Jr., now an associate justice - were vociferously opposed by Democratic senators, including Mr. Obama before he became president.

Judge Sotomayor, who would be the high court’s first Hispanic member, could be just the first of several Obama appointments to the court, especially if he serves two full terms.

Floor debate on her confirmation is likely to carry into next week, but both Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Mr. Sessions, the panel’s ranking Republican, have said they expect Judge Sotomayor to be voted on and confirmed before the Senate’s recess begins Aug. 7.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, who helped shepherd the nomination through the chamber, predicted Judge Sotomayor would do better than the 78 votes then-Judge Roberts received in 2005. Judge Alito received the support of 58 senators, a marker it appears Judge Sotomayor will easily clear.

As of Monday, no Senate Democrat had announced plans to vote against Judge Sotomayor, despite a promise from the National Rifle Association, which opposes the nominee, that the confirmation would be counted in its influential legislative scorecard rating.

Judge Sotomayor’s careful performance during a week of Senate hearings and the work of her handlers have kept her confirmation battle from turning into a political slugfest like some previous confirmation battles.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide