Tales from the Trail

“Fiesta Latina” changes the rhythm at Obama White House

hosts President Barack Obama celebrated the growing contribution of Hispanic culture and music to the United States with a “Fiesta Latina” at the White House, part of a musical series started by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Latin music “moves us and tends to make us want to move ourselves,” the president declared.

Actors Eva Longoria Parker, George Lopez and Jimmy Smits began the show joking that Obama is Hispanic.

Gloria Estefan followed with her Billboard hit “No Llores,” accompanied by Jose Feliciano and percussionist Sheila E.

While the celebration of Hispanic music brought other entertainment heavyweights as Marc Anthony and Jeninfer Lopez, Los Lobos, Thalia  and Pete Escovedo to the White House, the evening’s standing ovation went to the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic member of the high court.

Sotomayor: getting lost on way to Supreme Court nomination

USA-SOTOMAYOR/When Sonia Sotomayor got THE CALL, she says her heart started racing and she started crying.

President Barack Obama had called on her cell phone to say she was his first pick for the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I actually stood by my balcony doors, and I had … my cell phone in my right hand and I had my left hand over my chest trying to calm my beating heart,” Sotomayor, now a Supreme Court Justice, said in an interview with the cable television network C-SPAN.

Baseball gets Justice — Sotomayor to throw first pitch

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a longtime avid fan of the New York Yankees baseball team, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Saturday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

A child of Puerto Rican parents, she grew up in the Bronx not far from where the Yankees play. Sotomayor, who was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate last month, is the first Hispanic justice on the high court.

BASEBALL/The Yankees said ceremonial first pitches by Sotomayor and by Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on Friday will take place during the team’s final regular season homestand to commemorate Hispanic heritage month.

Sotomayor’s first day on bench in public session, Ricky Martin attends

Justice Sonia Sotomayor received a warm welcome from her fellow Supreme Court colleagues on her first day on the bench in a public session attended by such luminaries as President Barack Obama and singer Ricky Martin.

Sotomayor, 55, is the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court and only the third woman. She wore the standard black judicial robe, with a white lace collar, known as a jabot, that was given to her by her colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The investiture marked the third ceremony for Sotomayor since the Senate approved her nomination in early August. USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR

Emotions high at White House for “Puerto Rican girl” Sotomayor

USA-SOTOMAYOR/President Barack Obama took a break from his tough fight over healthcare reform on Wednesday to throw a victory party for Sonia Sotomayor, who on Saturday was sworn in as the first Hispanic and third woman justice in the 220-year-long history of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sotomayor, Obama’s first nominee to the highest U.S. court, was praised for breaking barriers not only for her ethnic background and gender, but also for her unique history as a justice who was raised in humble New York City surroundings as the child of a single Puerto Rican mother.

 ”It is this nation’s faith in a more perfect union that allowed a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx to stand here now,” Sotomayor told the crowd in a packed East Room, who responded with applause, loud cheers and a standing ovation.  “I am struck again today by the wonder of my own life and the life we in America are so privileged to lead,” she said.

The First Draft: Swearing-in is one thing. A White House do is another.

USA-SOTOMAYOR/For those who may have missed it — and don’t laugh, there could be quite a few who did — there’s a new Supreme Court justice in town. After months of speculation, debate, a Capitol Hill grilling and finally a vote to confirm her, Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in as the first Latina and only the third woman to serve on the U.S. high court.

The problem, for public-awareness purposes, is that it happened on Saturday in an eye-blink ceremony in a conference room at the Supreme Court building. That was a departure from decades of tradition that has dictated a White House oath-taking for new justices, reportedly on President Barack Obama’s say-so.

That doesn’t mean Sotomayor won’t get her time at the White House. That happens this morning in an East Room reception hosted by the president and first lady Michelle Obama.

Live updates from the Sotomayor confirmation hearings

Reuters’ Andrew Quinn will be providing live updates on the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor, scheduled to start on Tuesday at 0930 ET. (Editor’s note: Reader comments appear in a smaller font)

The First Draft: Power of persuasion?

President Barack Obama has targetted healthcare reform as his top legislative priority. Now he just has to convince Congress to make it work.

OBAMA/Over the past week, Obama has stepped up pressure on lawmakers, speaking out each day about the need for an overhaul of the unwieldy system. He also has invited key lawmakers to the White House for a little personal persuasion.

Four Republican senators made the trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to see the president on Wednesday and today he’ll meet with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe and Democrat Ben Nelson. Yesterday Obama also took the opportunity of congratulating the newest congresswoman — Judy Chu of California — on her victory to make a special mention of healthcare and the need to reform the system and lower costs for Americans.

The First Draft: It’s healthcare and Supreme Court – again

Today seems a bit like a repeat of yesterday, just with a bit of a twist.

On the healthcare front, action moves to the Senate side with the Health, Education, Labor and CONGRESS-HEALTHCARE/Pensions Committee due to finish work on and present its version of the healthcare bill . The Senate Finance Committee is still hammering out details on how to pay for a massive healthcare overhaul and holds a closed door meeting before it presents its version of the bill next week.

President Barack Obama will increase his pressure on lawmakers to reach agreement with a Rose Garden address at 1:05 pm EDT/1705 GMT on the need for health care reform. Obama, who has made the healthcare overhaul his top legislative priority, on Tuesday voiced support for a House of Representatives proposal that would pay for the reform by levying a new tax on the wealthy.

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor heads back to face the Senate Judiciary Committee at 9:30 EDT/1330 GMT for the second day of questioning in her nomination hearing.

The First Draft: Now to the Q+A for Sotomayor

The gloves are coming off.USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR

After a day spent mostly silent, looking on as senators in the Judiciary Committee made their formal opening statements and others lauded her accomplishments, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will be peppered with questions today about her qualifications for the life-time appointment.

Sotomayor likely will face tough questioning as the lawmakers seek to find out where she might take the country on issues such as abortion, guns and race. Though Republicans have conceded that Sotomayor will most likely win confirmation in the Democrat-dominated Senate, they likely will use the opportunity to focus on what they call her “activist” history.

Also on Capitol Hill, other lawmakers continue to work on legislation to revamp the healthcare industry after President Barack Obama “put everybody on notice” on Monday and and vowed to overhaul the system.