Slowing of Sotomayor Increasingly Difficult

GOP Attacks Continue, but Delays Unlikely

Posted July 6, 2009 at 6:21pm

Senate Republicans, whose numbers officially hold at 40 today with the swearing-in of Democrat Al Franken (Minn.), have limited options to slow the confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

“I think there are a lot of folks who have concerns about the schedule, but there’s not a lot we can do,— one Senate GOP aide said Monday.

Earlier rumors of GOP-led delay tactics to stall President Barack Obama’s first high-court nomination now appear all but dead, as the Judiciary Committee prepares to launch a week of confirmation hearings on July 13.

“We’re poised to stick to Sen. Leahy’s schedule,— the GOP aide said of Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) plan to convene opening statements in less than a week.

Judiciary rules allow any Member to request a one-week delay on a nomination, so the panel could vote on Sotomayor as early as July 16, or — more likely —as late as July 23. That hypothetical timeline gives Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) two weeks to bring Sotomayor’s nomination to the floor, just before the chamber breaks for the August recess on Aug. 7.

Still, Republicans — many of whom have been critical of the Supreme Court pick — are hoping to offer lengthy floor statements and a rhetorical war leading up to the confirmation vote. Obama had asked for Sotomayor to be installed before the Supreme Court reconvenes in early October, a timeline Senate Democrats have vowed to meet.

Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) took to the floor Monday to criticize Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy on international law. And, according to an aide, Kyl will make repeat appearances this week to continue that message.

Republicans over the past few weeks have turned their attention to Sotomayor’s record, hammering her on her past affiliation with a Puerto Rican civil rights organization and her rulings on affirmative action and gun rights cases while serving on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It raises questions about, is that her philosophy, and is she going to carry that to the courts and apply it even if the law does not support it?— Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told Fox News on Monday.

As GOP committee aides continue to pore over newly released documents relating to Sotomayor’s work with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Republican panel members will likely continue to call on the group to disclose hundreds of boxes worth of additional material.

“Our goal since day one is a thorough review for a nominee who is up for a lifetime appointment,— a senior Republican leadership aide said.

Democrats engaged in their own counter-offensive over the weeklong July Fourth break, however, drumming up grass-roots support to help ensure a smooth confirmation.

For their part, Senate Democrats have largely focused on Sotomayor’s compelling life story — she was raised by a single mother in New York’s South Bronx and would be the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court — and dismissed Republican criticism of her tenure atop PRLDEF’s board and the group’s release of pertinent materials. Senate Democrats believe that despite the GOP criticism, Sotomayor’s nomination will advance with full Democratic support and handful of Republicans votes.

“This well-respected civil rights advocacy organization has cooperated and made an extensive effort to review decades-old records, most of which have no connection to Judge Sotomayor, to provide even more information to the Committee,— Leahy said in a statement last week.

Leahy continues his counteroffensive on Tuesday with an appearance alongside law enforcement officials to discuss Sotomayor’s criminal justice record.