- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s time for Sen. John McCain to step up to the plate on an issue he usually leaves to others. The Arizona Republican ought to fight hard against the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Mr. McCain is usually not a partisan warrior on the subject of judges. But that’s a reason why his active involvement would be effective. As the Republican Party’s most recent presidential standard bearer, he commands more attention than almost any other senator in his party. As a man with a reputation for principled independence, his actions tend to carry more moral weight in the public eye than those of most other politicians.

As a self-proclaimed tribune of transparent government, Mr. McCain should argue that senators should give the public a chance to weigh in on such an important lifetime appointment before the Senate votes. Judge Sotomayor’s poll ratings have been dropping like a rock; senators should try to ascertain why.

The fact of the matter is that Mr. McCain will have a much easier, more convincing case to make about why Judge Sotomayor should be rejected than the case he could make for confirming her. After all, the Arizonan was one of 29 senators to vote against her promotion to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998. If she was a bad choice for a lower court a decade ago, she is unfit for the nation’s highest court now.

When Mr. McCain voted against her in 1998, Judge Sotomayor had yet to say or do some of the outlandish things that have made her nomination so problematic. She had not yet ruled that a statute of limitations for contesting government’s seizure of private property should be over before the property was even seized in the first place. She had not yet ruled, against centuries of practice and all ordinary notion of what constitutes full citizenship, that currently imprisoned murderers, rapists and child molesters still have a right to vote.

She had not ruled that individuals do not possess a “fundamental right” to bear arms. She had not ruled that firefighters could be denied promotions merely for being white. And she had not done all these things by use of suspiciously short, perfunctory opinions that ignored important constitutional issues while leaving litigants, lawyers and the general public largely in the dark about why she ruled the way she did.

Surely Judge Sotomayor’s awful record as an appellate judge should disqualify her from an even greater promotion than the one Mr. McCain was unwilling to give her 11 years ago.

Senate Democrats are expected to ask for a unanimous consent agreement to hold a final vote on Judge Sotomayor before the end of next week. Mr. McCain should withhold that consent. He should announce that he will vote to deny her confirmation, and he should use every parliamentary tool at his disposal to delay the final vote until after senators have had a chance to hear from their constituents on the subject during the August congressional recess.

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