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Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) refused Thursday to rule out using procedural tactics to stall the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court while continuing to express hope that Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will give the GOP more time to consider the nomination.
Leahy has set Sotomayors confirmation hearings for the middle of July, despite loud protests from Republicans that the schedule is too hasty. Republicans argue the July 13 start date does not give them enough time to review Sotomayors substantial record as a lawyer and judge.
As the hearing time approaches we will evaluate whether we can make that deadline, Kyl said, explaining that if Republicans do not feel they can adequately question Sotomayor they will try to meet with Leahy to make a plea for more time.
However, Kyl, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, did not explicitly rule out the use of delay tactics, including a Republican boycott of the confirmation hearings, if an accommodation cannot be made. Hopefully [Republicans can] persuade him to give us more time, Kyl said.
Republican Senate aides have said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member on Judiciary, is unlikely to make any decision about trying to slow down the nomination for the next several weeks.
Sessions, while critical of some of Sotomayors previous public statements, has attempted to approach the process in a careful, measured way. Republicans are keen to maintain the appearance of impartiality until the hearings begin, which also would likely mean holding off on making a decision on whether to obstruct Sotomayor until the last moment.
Additionally, one senior GOP leadership aide pointed out that while Leahy is known for his partisanship, he has not always turned a deaf ear to Republican complaints. For instance, during the confirmation of Attorney General Eric Holder, Leahy granted Republicans an extension. Although Leahy publicly bickered with Republicans, they say he largely accommodated their demands for lengthier hearings once they began.