Graham: Barring Meltdown, Sotomayor Will Be Confirmed

Posted July 13, 2009 at 9:57am

Updated: 12:03 p.m.Even as Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) gaveled to order the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor on Monday morning, partisans were ramping up their attacks on the nominee — and on each other.But while outside organizations and some committee Republicans were engaged in an aggressive, partisan fight, not all of them were falling into line.Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Sotomayor that “unless you have a major meltdown, you are going to be confirmed.— Graham offered a relatively tame opening statement in which he repeatedly praised the nominee while raising mild concerns about her previous statements.Democrats and the White House were largely sticking to their strategy of stressing Sotomayor’s experience and arguing she should be held to the same standard as Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts was appointed by George W. Bush and confirmed in a bipartisan vote in 2005.In talking points circulated to Senate Democrats, the White House argues that Sotomayor’s record is “public— and that she “is an exceptionally qualified nominee, with more than 17 years of experience on the federal bench, including six years as a trial judge. Her nomination has received support from Democrats, Republicans, law enforcement groups and civil rights organizations.—The talking points also stress Sotomayor’s “judicial restraint— in her rulings and seek to bolster recent arguments that her ruling in an affirmative action case represents moderation since she was keeping in line with precedent.The push by her allies to paint Sotomayor as a moderate jurist was an effort to counter the GOP line of questioning, led by Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (Ala.). Sessions used his opening statement — typically the one relatively civil part of any confirmation hearing — to launch a series of harsh attacks on Sotomayor. His statement was rife with references to issues such as abortion, race, property rights, gun rights and the specter of a global governance system.Sessions, who took over as the top Republican on the Judiciary panel in May, called Sotomayor’s previous statements on ethnicity and the role of the courts as authors of policy “shocking and offensive to me— and called a number of her rulings as judge “troublesome.—Sessions also took aim at Sotomayor’s work with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, highlighting the group’s positions on affirmative action cases, abortion and the death penalty.Republicans are expected to ramp up a rapid response operation once Sotomayor begins her testimony this afternoon. According to GOP aides, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is expected to focus his war room’s messaging efforts on the Sotomayor hearings this week and will send out counter statements in an instant response e-mail system during her opening statement and any answers she gives to questions.Meanwhile, liberal organizations were taking aim at Sessions, questioning his comments about the role a person’s ethnicity plays in judicial decision-making. For instance, Presente Action, a liberal Latino organization, has begun running Spanish language ads in Florida and in key Congressional districts attacking Sessions and other Republicans for what the group argues are racist stands on ethnicity.The Judiciary panel began questioning Sotomayor at 10 a.m. Monday for what’s expected to be a week’s worth of hearings. Sotomayor, if approved, would be the first Latina on the Supreme Court. She currently sits on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Obama has asked that the Senate confirm her before the Supreme Court reconvenes in October.