GOP Continues to Press Sotomayor; Democrats Explore Her Experience

Posted July 15, 2009 at 12:05pm

Viewers watching the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday could be misled into thinking they were watching Tuesday’s session as Republicans and Democrats faithfully stuck to their familiar scripts.While Judiciary Committee Republicans attacked a series of statements that Sotomayor has previously made — most notably her comment that a “wise Latina— woman would arrive at a better conclusion than a white male — Democrats used the morning session to allow Sotomayor to talk about her lengthy judicial career. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) followed the GOP’s strategy of using the questioning period to try to rally the GOP’s conservative base, focusing on hot-button issues of abortion, affirmative action and race.But unlike Tuesday’s session, during which ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took a combative approach to their questions, Cornyn and Coburn avoided using overly partisan or aggressive language.At one point, Coburn asked Sotomayor whether it is legal for citizens to use a gun to defend themselves, posing a hypothetical question to elicit a response from Sotomayor. The high court hopeful replied, “If I go home and get a gun and come back and shoot you, that may not be legal under New York law.—“You’d have lots of ’splainin’ to do,— Coburn retorted with a chuckle.Democratic Sens. Benjamin Cardin (Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), meanwhile, largely used their question period to focus on Sotomayor’s record as a prosecutor, federal judge and a commercial litigator. Sotomayor currently serves on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Sotomayor’s responses to Democrats provided many of Wednesday’s lighter moments, particularly during Klobuchar’s opening remarks. Noting that she had met Sotomayor’s mother in the bathroom during a midmorning break, Klobuchar, known for her wit, said that “she has lots of stories to tell about you.—“Senators, don’t give her the chance!— Sotomayor pleaded, to which Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) responded, “The chairman is tempted.—The first round of questioning is expected to wrap up this afternoon, after which Members and Sotomayor will convene a brief, closed-door meeting to discuss her FBI background file. The second round of Judiciary questioning is scheduled to begin later in the day and could run well into Thursday.