Sotomayor hearings begin, lines drawn
The political lines are drawn.
The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee wasted no time in setting the battle plans for the debate over the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the first Hispanic justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
After all is said and done, she is expected to be confirmed to the highest court in the United States — a lifetime appointment.
But to get there, she must listen to senator after senator talk about whether she is qualified for the job, with her family sitting behind her in the hearing room, and in full public view on televised proceedings.
Senator Patrick Leahy, committee chairman, described Sotomayor as a “success story” in which “all Americans can take pride.”
He pointed out that in past confirmation hearings, other justices were subjected to questions based on their ethnicity or religion.
Thurgood Marshall was asked whether he was prejudiced against Southern whites, Louis Brandeis was asked about “the Jewish mind,” and a Catholic nominee (we believe Leahy was referring to Roger Taney) had to overcome an argument that his views would be dominated by the Pope.
“We are in a different era,” Leahy said. “Let no one demean this extraordinary woman.”
Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the committee, politely layed out his concerns about Sotomayor. And she, in turn, politely sat in her peacock blue jacket and listened to his list with a smile.
“I believe our legal system is at a dangerous crossroads,” Sessions said. He expressed concern with “this empathy standard” that President Barack Obama set in choosing his first Supreme Court nominee.
It took Senator Charles Grassley to become the first to refer to Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” comment that stirred so much controversy for weeks before the hearings began.
But perhaps Senator Lindsey Graham summed it up the best: “Unless you have a complete meltdown you’re going to get confirmed.”
There are still days to go…
Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Sotomayor greeted by Leahy and Sessions at confirmation hearing)