Tales from the Trail

Funnyman Franken turns serious on Senate stage

The Senate’s newest member, former comedian Al Franken, is making clear that he is taking the new job seriously and it’s no longer funny business for him.

Sworn in as a senator less than a week ago, there were no jokes when Franken faced a packed house in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room and expounded on the loftiest of government institutions – the U.S. Supreme Court — and President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor.USA-COURTS/SOTOMAYOR

It was a life-immitating-art moment. Franken had played a senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee on television comedy show Saturday Night Live during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

But there were no jokes this time, barely a smile.

“Last Tuesday, I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to bear true faith and allegiance to it,” Franken said.

“I take this oath very seriously as we consider your nomination, Judge Sotomayor.”

Of umpires and the heart at Sotomayor hearing

Senators trying to make points turned to baseball umpires, football, and matters of the heart, at Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court.

They batted around the words of Chief Justice John Roberts from his own confirmation hearing four years ago when he told the same committee: “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them.” (For more umpire analogy discussion see The New York Times).

BASEBALL/Democrats sought to portray Sotomayor as a better court umpire than Roberts, who was a nominee of  Republican President George W. Bush.

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. USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR

The First Draft: The judge faces her questioners

Confirmation hearings begin for Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic USA-COURT/SOTOMAYORwoman to be nominated for the Supreme Court.

President Barack Obama ‘s pick to fill his first high court vacancy will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday at 10 a.m. EDT/1400 GMT, with hearings expected to last most of the week.

After returning from a weeklong overseas trip, Obama called Sotomayor to wish her luck as she headed to Capitol Hill to face her questioners.

1,200 law professors sign up as Sotomayor fans

Nearly 1,200 law professors from across the country signed up to support U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, and one early Republican critic says he may even vote for her.

With the stage set for her nationally broadcast Senate confirmation hearing next week, President Barack Obama’s first pick for the highest U.S. court seems headed toward confirmation as the first Hispanic U.S. justice. USA/

Backers and opponents of Sotomayor have called her a liberal. Yet a group of law professors squarely in her corner say she is a moderate who goes by the book — the law book. 

The First Draft: Block that metaphor

PEOPLE-JACKSON/Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett may no longer be with us, but Congress is still hanging around. Good thing, too, as they’ve got plenty of work to do.

The House of Representatives is poised to vote today on one of the most significant environmental bills in history. It could be a nail-biter as Democratic leaders are still scrambling to ensure they have enough votes to pass the measure, which aims to wean industry off of carbon-emitting fuels blamed for global warming.

After that it has to clear the Senate, where Republicans will have an easier time derailing it if they so desire.

The First Draft: On The Road Again

EGYPT/Now that Congress is back from its week-long Memorial Day recess, it’s time for the U.S. top brass to hit the road. President Barack Obama heads to the Middle East today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Honduras, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is in China and U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke promises a visit to Pakistan this week.

Closer to home, Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor starts making the rounds on Capitol Hill in advance of her confirmation hearings. Meantime, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal faces questions at his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Armed Services Committee today. McChrystal’s nominated to be the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

This might be an opportune time for travel. The Ipsos/Reuters poll indicates global consumer confidence is stabilizing, after dropping for 18 months.

The First Draft: the Supreme Court and the Spelling Bee

SPELLING BEE/KIDSWith Congress gone this week and President Barack Obama out of town for most of today, Washington turns to its two traditional inside-the-Beltway sporting events: handicapping a Supreme Court nominee’s chances of confirmation, and watching the nerve-wracking finals of the National Spelling Bee.

Sonia Sotomayor, picked by Obama on Tuesday, is already being praised in an ad by liberal groups and vilified as a racist by conservatives, including radio talk jock Rush Limbaugh, whom the White House has tried to style as the de facto head of the Republican Party. Obama himself stumped for his choice on a Western swing yesterday to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The president returns to Washington for a late afternoon meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The First Draft: Obama campaigns again – for his court pick

OBAMA/President Barack Obama is back on the campaign trail.

But this time he’s not trying to win himself a job …he is trying to win over support for his Supreme Court nominee,  Sonia Sotomayor.

Even though regular Americans — or the elite Democrats attending fundraisers — don’t get to vote for Supreme Court nominee, they can pressure their senators.

Sounding like he did while stumping for more than a year on the campaign trail, Obama spoke passionately about his choice of Sotomayor — the first Hispanic woman ever nominated to the high court — to Democrats at a fundraiser for Democratice Majority Leader Harry Reid in Las Vegas.

The First Draft: Obama picks hispanic woman for court

President Barack Obama announced Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the Supreme Court this morning.

Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic named to the court and would increase the number of women currently sitting on the court to two.

A reading of the tea leaves — via the presidential and vice presidential schedules — had increased chatter this morning that President Barack Obama could announce his nominee for the Supreme Court as soon as today.