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Old Supporters Now Sotomayor Foes

Some Republicans Change Their Minds on Nominee

Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah) announced Friday that he would vote against Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, becoming the first Republican to oppose her ascension to the high court who supported her nomination to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals just over a decade ago.

Bennett’s announcement came on the heels of Sotomayor’s Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, which brought few fireworks and all but assured her installment as the first Latina on the court. The four days of testimony and questioning ended with ranking member Jeff Sessions (Ala.) making plain that GOP Senators would not try to filibuster her nomination.

Still, not every Republican is lining up to confirm her, including Bennett.

Sotomayor enjoyed significant bipartisan Senate support for her appointment to the New York-based federal appeals court. Seven sitting GOP Senators — Bennett, Olympia Snowe (Maine), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Susan Collins (Maine), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Thad Cochran (Miss.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) — voted in favor.

So far, Bennett is the only one of the seven to indicate he will oppose her Supreme Court nomination; Snowe and Lugar joined fellow Republican Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) on Friday and endorsed her installment.

Bennett cited a number of issues including Second Amendment gun rights for deciding to vote against Sotomayor and said the decision was a difficult one. “This has been a close call for me because I support the president’s constitutional prerogative to nominate justices and I am reluctant to substitute my judgment for his. However, in the end, I have decided that I must vote no,” Bennett said in a statement.

As expected, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also announced Friday he would oppose the nomination.

Lugar said that following a review of her record and testimony to the Judiciary Committee, he decided to back Sotomayor. Like Bennett and McConnell, Lugar is not a member of the Judiciary panel, which wrapped up the hearings Thursday night.

“I have listened to the testimony of Judge Sonia Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee, carefully reviewed her public service record and reviewed recommendations from Indiana constituents and colleagues here in the Senate,” Lugar said.

“Judge Sotomayor is clearly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and ... I will vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Lugar said.

Although Lugar, Snowe and Martinez were the first Republican Senators to officially back the nomination, at least one other Republican, Judiciary member Lindsey Graham (S.C.), all but endorsed Sotomayor during Thursday’s final day of hearings. After emerging as one of her fiercest critics, Graham used his final question period to praise her record and argue that she is not an activist judge.

The Senate isn’t expected to take up the nomination until later this month or early August. Every Democrat is expected to vote to confirm her, and Republicans say as many as a dozen on their side might give her the nod.

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