Committee Votes To Approve Sotomayor
13-6 Vote Includes One Republican 'Yea'
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer
POSTED: Monday, July 27, 2009
UPDATED: 11:06 am CDT July 28, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court will be voted on by the full U.S. Senate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday morning to approve her nomination. The 13-6 vote came as expected, with all members except Sen. Lindsey Graham voting with their party.
Hearings weeks ago that included repeated discussions of comments she made in speeches along with a look at her judicial record.
If confirmed -- possibly as soon as next week -- she will be the first Hispanic person to serve on the high court.
Republicans are divided on the politically perplexing question of how to vote on Sotomayor. Many are eager to please their core supporters by opposing her but fear a backlash by Hispanic voters, a fast-growing part of the electorate, if they do so.
Obama chose Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal named by a Republican president, and she's considered unlikely to alter the high court's ideological split. Sotomayor is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who was raised in a New York City housing project and educated in the Ivy League. She has served on the federal bench for 17 years.
Sessions said Sotomayor's writings and speeches amount to "dramatic expressions of an activist view of judging," and added that a few of her rulings sidestepped key constitutional issues and ignored bedrock principles. He said he believed Sotomayor would be a vote for a "new kind of ideological judging." Grassley said he's not sure Sotomayor understands the rights Americans have under the Constitution, or that she will refrain from expanding or restricting those rights based on her personal preferences. He said he was still haunted by his 1990 vote to confirm Souter, and harbored the same doubts about Sotomayor.
Many Republicans point to Sotomayor's stance on gun rights as a key reason they're voting against her. They complain that she refused to weigh in during her confirmation hearings on whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to states as well as the federal government, a question on which the high court has yet to rule. Sotomayor was part of an appeals court panel that said this year that the amendment doesn't restrict state laws, citing previous Supreme Court precedent.
The National Rifle Association, which was slow to announce its opposition to Sotomayor and initially hung back from threatening senators against voting for her, announced last week that it would "score" her confirmation vote, calling her "hostile" to the Second Amendment. That means the NRA will include the vote on Sotomayor in its annual candidate ratings, which heavily influence voters in key battleground states. Republicans and Democrats from conservative-leaning states generally fear bucking the NRA, and strategists speculate that the group's opposition has tipped the balance for some GOP senators who might otherwise have considered supporting Sotomayor. No Democrat has announced plans to vote no. A group of Hispanic House Democrats wrote to NRA leaders Monday urging the group to reconsider its stance, saying it was putting some senators in an untenable position by forcing them to choose between defying the gun lobby and infuriating Hispanic constituents.
The anti-abortion rights group Americans United for Life has also weighed in against Sotomayor, writing to senators urging a "no" vote and announcing that it, too, would include her confirmation vote in its annual scorecard.
The group said it was concerned Sotomayor would "undermine any efforts by our elected representatives to pass even the most widely accepted regulations on abortion and circumvent the will of the people."
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