3 Republican senators say they'll vote for Sotomayor

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 17, 2009 

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor picked up her first Republican Senate backers Friday — Sens. Mel Martinez of Florida, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Olympia Snowe of Maine — virtually assuring her of an overwhelming confirmation vote.

Democrats control 60 Senate votes, and some other Republicans could join them when the Senate votes, probably in early August.

The Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, will oppose Sotomayor, however.

In remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor Monday, McConnell said that Sotomayor demonstrated "an alarming lack of respect for the notion of equal justice" and "an insufficient willingness to abide by the judicial oath."

Republican Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah also said that he'd oppose Sotomayor.

Sotomayor on Thursday concluded four days of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and none of the seven Republican members of that panel has said how he'll vote. The 55-year-old federal appellate judge is seeking to become the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Judiciary Committee member, has appeared to be leaning in her direction, while others have offered praise.

Graham told Sotomayor on Thursday that "I think and believe, based on what I know about you so far, that you're broad-minded enough to understand America is bigger than the Bronx; it's bigger than South Carolina."

He's still weighing his decision, however, saying that in regard to some of her speeches she's been "consistently ... left of center" and adding, "You have said some things that just bugged the hell out of me."

Martinez, the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate, called Sotomayor "knowledgeable of the law," saying she'd be a "fair and impartial judge (who) seems to have a good understanding of the limited role the judiciary plays in our democracy."

Martinez, who isn't a Judiciary Committee member, also said that Sotomayor's confirmation would be a proud moment for Latinos.

"Judge Sotomayor's rise to the Supreme Court is testimony to the fact that the American dream continues to be attainable," Martinez said. "As an Hispanic American, I take great pride in Judge Sotomayor's historic achievement. Given her qualifications and testimony this week, I intend to vote in favor of her confirmation."

Snowe, who also isn't on the Judiciary Committee, had urged President Barack Obama privately last spring to name a woman to the Supreme Court, and she signed a letter with Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California suggesting that.

On Friday, Snowe said she was impressed with Sotomayor because the nominee "appears neither rigid nor dogmatic in her approach to the essential task of constitutional interpretation, as evidenced by her answer when asked to describe whether she subscribed to one or another school of constitutional interpretation: 'I don't use labels.' "

Lugar, who also isn't a committee member, issued a statement Friday that said he'd "carefully reviewed her public service record, and reviewed recommendations from Indiana constituents and colleagues here in the Senate."

After that review, said the veteran senator, who's long been considered one of the Senate's most thoughtful members, he found that "Judge Sotomayor is clearly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and she has demonstrated a judicial temperament during her weeklong nomination hearing."

He praised her "distinguished career of public service. She is well regarded in the legal community and by her peers."

As a result, he said, "I will vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."

McConnell had a different view, however.

"Over the years," he said, "Americans have accepted significant ideological differences in the kinds of men and women that various presidents have nominated to the Supreme Court.

"But one thing Americans will never tolerate in a nominee is a belief that some groups are more deserving of a fair shake than others."

"Nothing could be more offensive to the American sensibility than that," he said. "Judge Sotomayor is a fine person with an impressive story and a distinguished background. But above all else, a judge must check his or her personal or political agenda at the courtroom door and do justice evenhandedly, as the judicial oath requires."

Republicans realize that Sotomayor is likely to win confirmation easily. Democrats control 12 of the 19 Judiciary Committee seats and 60 Senate seats.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the committee's top Republican, said he wouldn't try to delay the final vote. The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning and could take its vote then.

Republicans, though, can delay the committee action a week to review the record further, and are expected to do so.

ON THE WEB

Sen. Lugar's statement

Sen. Martinez's statement

Sen. Bennett's statement

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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