GOP Prepping to Fight Sotomayor’s Selection

Posted June 8, 2009 at 6:36pm

As Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor continues her Senate meet-and-greets this week, Republicans will be working to sharpen their critique of the nominee by combing through her responses to written questions and record as a lawyer and judge.

Senate Democrats remain confident Sotomayor will ultimately be confirmed by a wide margin. But for the second time in less than a week, a prominent Democrat will hold a public event to tout the nomination. Vice President Joseph Biden this morning is scheduled to hold an event highlighting support for Sotomayor by law enforcement officials. New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau; Miami Police Chief John Timoney, president of the Police Executive Research Forum; and National District Attorneys Association President Joseph Cassilly are all expected to attend the event at the White House.

On Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) held a meeting in the Capitol with Latino civil rights and legal leaders to trumpet their support for the nominee, who would be the third female and first Latina on the high court. Sotomayor, tapped to replace retiring Justice David Souter, currently sits on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to carefully pick apart her lengthy record to try to build a case not only against her nomination, but also against President Barack Obama’s broader views of the judiciary.

Sotomayor, 54, has come under fire for several of her past statements, including that a Latina could arrive at better conclusions than a white man in certain types of cases. She has also taken some shots from lawyers and law clerks who contend she has a loose tongue and a fiery temper.

Conservatives have pointed to those personality traits in arguing that she is a poor fit for the Supreme Court, which — in deliberating the nation’s most critical cases — requires thoughtful, measured jurists.

GOP staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee spent much of the weekend poring over Sotomayor’s responses to written questions from Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Wary of appearing as if he has prejudged the nomination, Sessions has largely sought to avoid a full-scale attack for now.

“They’re taking a very cautious and responsible view of this. I don’t think anyone expected that of Sessions,— a senior GOP aide said, explaining that Sessions, a staunch conservative, wants to put together a comprehensive list of issues on which to quiz Sotomayor during her hearings before the panel.

Sessions, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other Republicans are expected to begin laying out those concerns this week. They will try to carefully balance their criticism of her past statements, legal writings and rulings with their continued calls for a protracted confirmation process that stretches into September.

Leahy and Sessions met late last week to discuss the timing of the Judiciary hearings — Sessions has been pushing to have them in the fall while Leahy has repeatedly rejected waiting until after the August recess. Leahy is expected to announce the timing of hearings this week, although it remains unclear whether he will go with his preferred schedule of July hearings, particularly since Reid has indicated several times that he does not see a need to rush the process. Obama has said he wants Sotomayor confirmed in time for the Supreme Court’s next session, which begins in early October.

Sotomayor’s meeting schedule this week also includes her first sit-down with Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.). Martinez, who is of Cuban descent, is under significant pressure from the Latino community to support the nomination.

Martinez has not yet indicated how he will vote. But because he is retiring from the Senate next year, Republicans acknowledge it may be difficult to keep him from supporting Sotomayor.