No Meltdowns for Sotomayor as Hearings End

Posted July 17, 2009 at 9:59am

The Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up its confirmation hearings of Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday night without the kind of meltdown that Republicans had said would be their only shot of derailing her.

Following nearly three days of questions, the panel completed its work with a series of witnesses offering testimony, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Frank Ricci, a New Haven, Conn. firefighter who was at the center of an affirmative action case that Sotomayor — as a jurist on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court — ruled on.

Judiciary Republicans had hoped Ricci’s testimony would help put a “human face— on the case that pitted white firefighters against the city for throwing out a promotions test on which minority candidates did not fare well. Sotomayor, as part of the circuit court, ruled in favor of the city in the case, which later went to the Supreme Court where the ruling was overturned.

Instead of the “Joe the Plumber— moment some conservatives may have hoped for, Ricci provided testimony on his work as a firefighter and the case — but explicitly avoided making attacks on Sotomayor.

When asked by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) if he wanted to make a statement about her qualifications, Ricci simply said, “That’s beyond my legal expertise … I am not an attorney or a legal scholar. I simply welcome an invitation by the United States Senate to come here today.—

And at as the hearings neared a close on Thursday, ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) acknowledged there was no GOP appetite for a filibuster of the nomination.

Meanwhile, Judiciary Republicans are expected Tuesday to formally request a one-week delay of a committee vote on the nomination. Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Thursday he hoped to hold the vote that day, but under Judiciary’s rules, any member can ask for the delay.

Democratic leaders have said they want to bring the nomination to the floor later this month, with a vote before Members adjourn for the August recess.