South Carolina's Graham, DeMint diverge in Sotomayor vote

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 6, 2009 

WASHINGTON — South Carolina Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint parted paths Thursday in the Senate's 68-31 Supreme Court confirmation vote for Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Graham, a military lawyer early in his second term, joined eight other Republican senators — and 57 Democrats and two independents — in backing President Barack Obama's nominee to be the first Hispanic justice on the court.

DeMint, up for re-election next year to a second term, voted against Sotomayor along with 30 fellow Republicans.

DeMint and Graham agreed that Sotomayor's personal story is inspirational — she grew up with a single mother in a Bronx housing project — but they disagreed on her fitness to sit on the nation's highest court.

In a speech on the Senate floor before the vote, DeMint politely accused Sotomayor, a federal appellate judge since 1998, of dishonesty during her confirmation hearings and in meetings with individual senators.

Sotomayor experienced "confirmation conversions on many of her issues" and "walked away from a lot of her past statements and positions," DeMint said.

"We have no idea what she really thinks," DeMint said. "In one sense, this is fitting (for a) Congress that routinely passes legislation that none of us read or understand."

DeMint criticized Sotomayor's insistence that her rulings have been — and will continue to be — based on judicial precedent and not her personal beliefs.

"Every time the Supreme Court bases a decision on precedent rather than on the underlying Constitution, the original intent of the founders is lost and becomes distorted," DeMint said. "There's nothing stopping a determined judge from finding a precedent that suits whatever they want to decide in any case before the court."

Graham declined to speak before or after the Senate vote. He let stand his widely praised comments at Sotomoyor's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, when he was the only Republican on the panel to vote to confirm her.

While criticizing Obama's 2005 confirmation vote as a senator against Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Graham lauded Sotomayor's qualifications, said "elections have consequences" and defended the Democratic president's right to choose a nominee who shares his political beliefs.

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