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The Senate on Tuesday began the final leg of Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayors 10-week confirmation process with Democrats and Republicans laying down rhetorical markers for a two-day floor debate that will do nothing to change the outcome.
Senators continued to state their positions on the nomination, including Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), who joined a growing list of GOP lawmakers who plan to vote against confirmation. But with six Republicans Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Maines Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe joining what is expected to be a united Democratic Conference, Sotomayors confirmation is anything but in doubt.
That certainty comes even though Democrats are likely to go without the votes of ailing Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and possibly Barbara Mikulski (Md.), who is nursing a broken angle. Sotomayor, a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, needs just 51 votes to win confirmation to the high court.
At press time, Senate Republican Policy Committee Vice Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) was the only member of either leadership team whose vote was not yet known.
Yet even with the drama seemingly gone, both opponents and proponents continued to play their appointed roles. Democrats hailed the confirmation of the first Latina Supreme Court justice as a major step forward in American society; they touted Sotomayor as a highly qualified, independent jurist. Republicans continued to question her impartiality as a judge and whether she would use the law not her personal agenda to influence rulings.
Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has shepherded the confirmation through the chamber, called Sotomayors nomination a truly American story.
She was raised by a working mother in the Bronx and rose to win top honors as part of one of the first classes of women to graduate from Princeton. ... She is now poised to become the first Latina justice, and just the third woman, to serve on the United States Supreme Court, he said. She has broken barriers along the way and has become a role model to many. Her life journey is a reminder to all of the continuing vitality of the American dream.
Judge Sotomayors selection for the Supreme Court also represents another step toward the establishment of justice, Leahy added.