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GOP Escalates Attacks on Sotomayor

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor meets with Sen. Tim Johnson in the Capitol on Tuesday. Republicans this week began ramping up their efforts to oppose her confirmation.

Senate Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday engaged in the first tentative skirmishes in the war over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, trading shots over whether she should be judged on her experience or philosophy during the confirmation process.

Republicans also remained adamant that if they do not have enough time to review Sotomayor’s judicial record before her hearings begin in mid-July, they will push to have them delayed.

Led by Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the GOP fired the first shot Tuesday in what is expected to be a multistaged effort to highlight problems with Sotomayor’s approach to the judiciary, while also making the broader case for a more conservative judicial view than the White House has taken.

In a series of Senate floor speeches, Republicans leveled their harshest criticism of Sotomayor to date, accusing the federal judge and President Barack Obama of espousing a view of the judiciary based on empathy that is little more than racial or gender prejudice.

“When there is empathy toward one, is it not prejudice toward the other? There are always litigants on the other side, and they deserve to have their cases decided on the law. ... What I’ve seen thus far in Judge Sotomayor’s record — and presumably some of her views are the reason President Obama selected her — cause me concern that the nominee will look outside the law and the evidence in judging and that her policy preferences could influence her decision-making,” Sessions said.

Likewise, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Sotomayor’s empathy “troubling.”

“Judge Sotomayor’s writings offer a window into what she believes having empathy for certain groups means when it comes to judging. And I believe that once Americans come to appreciate the real-world consequences of this view, they’ll find the empathy standard extremely troubling as a criterion for selecting men and women for the federal bench,” McConnell said.

Sessions and Republicans also took aim at Sotomayor’s involvement in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a civil rights organization in which Sotomayor was an officer from 1980 to 1992.

Republicans for the first time openly questioned the group’s motives, picking up on a line of criticism pushed by conservatives for months that the organization is “militant” and “far left.”

“Looking at the long association the nominee has with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund — an organization that is ... I believe, clearly outside the mainstream of [an] American approach to matters — this is a group that has taken some very shocking positions with respect to terrorism,” Sessions said. He also called the group a “radical nationalist” organization.

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