July 24th, 2009
12:54 PM ET
5 years ago

2 key Republican senators to oppose Sotomayor for high court

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Two key Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee announced their opposition to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Friday, a further sign the party's conservative base is uniting against President Barack Obama's first high court pick.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah - the former chairman of the committee - and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas - head of the party's Senate campaign committee - announced on the Senate floor their intention to vote against the 55-year-old federal appeals court judge.

Hatch's decision came as somewhat of a surprise. The veteran Republican has voted for every high court nominee in his 32-year Senate career - including President Bill Clinton's two liberal choices, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Hatch had praised Sotomayor's "credentials and experience" and the fact she would be the first Hispanic justice. But despite the nominee's compelling life story, Hatch said that controversial off-the-bench comments by Sotomayor troubled him.

"I reluctantly, and with a heavy heart, have found that I cannot support her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court," Hatch said in a written statement.

"In truth, I wish President Obama had chosen a Hispanic nominee that all senators could support. I believe it would have done a great deal for our great country. Although Judge Sotomayor has a compelling life story and dedication to public service, her statements and record were too much at odds with the principles about the judiciary in which I deeply believe."

Cornyn candidly admitted his opposition to Sotoamayor could carry political risks in his home state, where one-third of the electorate is Hispanic.

"Voting to confirm a judge - this judge or any judge - despite doubts would certainly be the politically expedient thing to do, but I don't believe it would be the right thing to do," he said on the Senate floor.

"Many of her public statements reflected a surprisingly radical view of the law," he said.

He argued that the "stakes are simply too high for me to confirm someone who could address all these issues from a liberal, activist perspective."

Seven other Republicans have previously said they would vote against Sotomayor. Five mostly moderate GOP lawmakers announced their intention to back her. A vote is scheduled Tuesday in the Judiciary Committee, followed by an expected final floor vote a week later. There is little doubt about the outcome, and Republican Party leaders have said no filibuster is planned.

Conservative groups have been pushing Republican senators to rally hard against Sotomayor. The National Rifle Association stressed the intensity of its opposition to her nomination on Thursday, warning senators that their votes will be considered in its future candidate evaluations.

Among those supporting Sotomayor is conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, whose folksy questioning of the nominee during last week's confirmation hearings attracted wide attention. His decision brought a rebuke from the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN), which slammed Graham's support "based upon his apparent willful blindness to her record, both on the bench and off, of indulging her own ethnic and gender biases, personal political views, and liberal agenda in the name of 'law.'"

JCN's counsel, Wendy Long, dismissed Graham's "cynical, pandering comments during the Judiciary Committee hearings, which were clearly aimed at drawing attention to himself rather than illuminating the role of the court in our constitutional republic."

Some Republican moderates have privately expressed concern that attacking Sotomayor could hurt the party's efforts to attract more Hispanics and women, especially since her confirmation seems assured.

Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comments were cited by Cornyn and others as reason for opposing her. The Texas Republican said Sotomayor was less than forthcoming when explaining her remarks in a 2001 speech.

Sotomayor told a group of Hispanic law students that "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experience, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

She has echoed the sentiment in related talks she has given over the years.

Cornyn said the remarks contrasted sharply with her pledge during her confirmation hearings to rule on cases without personal bias.

"Who is the real Judge Sonia Sotomayor?" he asked.

–CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.


Filed under: John Cornyn • Orrin Hatch • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. OLIVER

    Surely, this surprises no one.

    July 24, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Vicki

    Typical Republicans.

    July 24, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. Josh in TN

    The party on obstruction will loose again.

    July 24, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. katiec

    CNN, we don't care or expect otherwise.
    We know better than to expect any member of the GOP, except
    for a very few, act with honor or integrity.

    July 24, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    They are both idiots and will suffer the consequences when they're up for re-election. So I guess Sen. Hatch had these feelings towards Judge Sotomayor when he voted YES for her when Bush1 appointed her to the Federal bench.

    July 24, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Not only is Sen. Hatch voting against someone he's voted for in the past, he PULLED-A-PALIN(Quit) on the healthcare reform.

    July 24, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. makesUwonder

    From one Texan to another Texan.............correct call Sen. Cornyn.

    July 24, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. Larry

    I've seen stupid in my life but this bunch of Republicans define it.

    They're voting against Ms. Sotomayor simply because she is a democratic president's pick.

    And out of the other side of their mouths they say they want bipartisan solutions to problems.

    Guess they're real desperate because they'll be losing their cushy jobs in Washington and all that money they get from special interests.

    July 24, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. ed

    Senator Graham will be the GOP nominee in 2012.

    May God have mercy on each one us !

    July 24, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Melissa

    Of course they are. Except that it isn't THEIR choice, now is it? Republicans just love to stir the hate pot.

    July 24, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. Laverne

    Again, this is not about Sotomayor, this is about being against Obama. This is quite disgusting and is really exposing a lot of what the republican agenda is about. They have decided to try and divide and go against any and everything when it comes to the Obama administration. It is instances like this that proves the Dems must stick together and they should push forcibly forward with their agenda.

    July 24, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. Johnny DC

    Obama voted against two Justice nominees for far worse reasons – ideology.

    July 24, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. Brian

    So what?

    July 24, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. The Unshrub

    Did anyone actually expect something else! They put up a good show and act like they are going to look at all the facts, but the end results are always the same.

    July 24, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. Brian- Palm Bay, FL

    She is a racist and if she were a Republican nominee she would have been crucified for her statements {go ask Clarence Thomas}. As a liberal she gets a pass.

    July 24, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  16. DC Insider

    I have to say I am suprised that Orin Hatch would backpeddle. I think this will seriously hinder his credibility in the future. I too think that Obama had rushed to get a nominee and like a few other cabinet choices hadn't really vetted or thought it through, but I do not really object to Judge Sotomayor. I am concerned she may be a activist judge and try to legislate rather than rule, but I am willing to take that risk. Not to mention while I am all for gun rights and the 2nd Amendment, I am not a fan of the NRA strong arming our Senators to vote a particular way.

    July 24, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. Jim

    Orrin Hatch is a great example of why we should have term limits on US Senators

    July 24, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. mike,texas

    The incredible, the incredible shrinking par-ty. Par for the course.At the rate they are going in 5 years the green party will be bigger than the repubs.

    July 24, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. Soren

    "Heavy Heart" !! My ass. Old Hatch should go home and take an afternoon nap.

    July 24, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. Hugo

    With the President's prior public statements on the importance of judging with empathy into how a judge should infer law at the highest level of our judicial system and his follow up racist comments siding with a fellow black based only his "uniformed empathy" make it abundantly clear how dangerous someone like Sotomayor is in the Supreme Court. I would hope that wise old AMERICAN CITIZENS realize that this sharp left turn course we are headed on is a disaster for our Nation and our Freedoms. Some of the legislation that has come from this Democratic House is beyond any normal free American line of thought, forget about right or left, it is a move to alter our Nation beyond anything we have ever known.

    July 24, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. No More Cheney

    KKK membership is secretive, you can't check their member roster for Hatch's and Cornyn's name.

    July 24, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. AJ

    I'm sure if Obama had nominated an African American, things would be different. Congress is so afraid of the AA community at this point, they will do anything to appease them.

    July 24, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. dg

    soto cant answer key questions, like our right to guns or the right to life . she does not deserve the position, but shell get it anyway

    July 24, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    What would make Sotomayor different that other supreme court nominees? I don't understand what doesn't make her qualified. We need to look at what she has done on the bench.

    July 24, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Rumsfeld

    And I have no respect for Congress, regardless of the party they belong to. Just a bunch of ineffectual egomaniacs. Each party is broken and yet we are expected to place our faith and trust in their abilities to govern. What a laugh.

    July 24, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
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