July 30th, 2009
10:55 AM ET
5 years ago

No. 3 Republican in the Senate backs Sotomayor

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said Thursday he would vote in favor of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court - the sixth Republican, and the first member of GOP congressional leadership, to back President Obama's nominee.

Full statement as released by the senator's office:

Statement of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander on the Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to Serve as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

July 30th, 2009 – WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today made the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:

"Mr. President, I have a statement to make about the President’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

“Even though Judge Sotomayor’s political and judicial philosophy may be different than mine, especially regarding Second Amendments rights, I will vote to confirm her because she is well qualified by experience, temperament, character and intellect to serve as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

“In 2005, I said on this Senate floor that it was wrong for then-Senator Obama and half the Democratic Senators to vote against John Roberts – a superbly qualified nominee – solely because they disagreed with what Senator Obama described as Roberts’ “overarching political philosophy” and “his work in the White House and the Solicitor General’s office” that “consistently sided” with “the strong in opposition to the weak.” Today, it would be equally wrong for me to vote against Judge Sotomayor solely because she is not “on my side” on some issues.

“Courts were never intended to be political bodies composed of judges “on your side” who would reliably tilt your way in controversial cases. Courts are supposed to do just the opposite: decide difficult cases with impartiality. The oath Judge Sotomayor has twice taken and will take again when she is sworn in as Associate Justice says it best: “… I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and … I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me … under the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

“During her confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayor expressly rejected then-Senator Obama’s view that in a certain percentage of judicial decisions “the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in a judge’s heart … and [in] the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.” In answer to a question from Senator Jon Kyl, she said, “I can only explain what I think judges should do, which is judges can’t rely on what’s in their heart. They don’t determine the law. Congress makes the laws. The job of a judge is to apply the law. And so it’s not the heart that compels conclusions in cases. It’s the law. The judge applies the law to the facts before that judge.”

“Giving broad Senate approval to obviously well-qualified nominees helps to increase the prestige of the Supreme Court and confirm its impartiality. For that reason, until the last few years Republican and Democratic senators, after rigorous inquiries into the fitness of nominees, usually have given those well-qualified nominees an overwhelming vote of approval.

“For example, no justice on the Supreme Court that John Roberts joined in 2005 had received more than nine negative votes. Four were confirmed unanimously. All but three Republican senators voted for Justice Ginsburg, a former General Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. Every single Democratic senator voted for Justice Scalia.

“In truly extraordinary cases, senators, of course, reserve the prerogative – as I do – to vote “no” or even to vote to deny an up-or-down vote.

“During the eight years I was governor of Tennessee, I appointed about 50 judges. In doing so, I looked for the same qualities that Justice Roberts and Judge Sotomayor have demonstrated: intelligence, good character, restraint, respect for law and respect for those who came before the court. I did not ask one applicant how he or she would rule on abortion or immigration or taxation. I appointed the first female circuit judge in our state, the first African American court chancellor and the first African American Supreme Court Justice. I appointed both Democrats and Republicans. That process served our state well and helped to build respect for the independence and fairness of our judiciary.

“In the same way, it is my hope that my vote now not only will help to confirm a well-qualified nominee but will help to return the Senate to the practice only recently lost of inquiring diligently into qualifications of a nominee and then accepting that elections have consequences, one of which is to confer upon the president the constitutional right to nominate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

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Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. R in Maine

    At least a few are following an honorable course, supporting the fully educated, and speaking out against a policy of discrimination against women and minorities. The good thing is that the republicans have documented their discrimination. It will cost them on the next nomination.

    July 30, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Active Duty Democrat

    Least one of those Republican fools has sense...

    July 30, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  3. Malcolm in St Louis

    Thanks goodness one Republican Senator has both good sense and good prose to describe the purpose of advise and consent.

    July 30, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  4. southerncousin

    That is more than the democrats did for Robert Bork who was far more qualified.

    July 30, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  5. English Rose

    Thank You Senator, we appreciate the support.

    July 30, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  6. steve in california

    note to Democrats:

    how to present yourself when you become the opposition party

    July 30, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  7. HBO

    WOW! We see the emergence of yet another level-headed and practical republican. I am impressed.

    July 30, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  8. C W

    Then-nominee Roberts was voted against because of his lack of respect for legal precedent and desire to elevate the rights of corporations above those of the individual. Talk about an activist judge! Personally, I wish he'd never been confirmed.

    I'm very happy with Sotomayor's nomination – I think she'll make a fine Justice.

    July 30, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  9. Charlotte

    Thank God there are some who are avoiding behaving like partisan hacks. Good for Alexander – he's using his brain. Let's see if many others do.

    July 30, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. Larry

    Alexander, your Republican buddies better get behind you. We're tired of Republicans making everything political.

    You will be voted out of office. I guarantee it.

    After 8 yrs of Bush and the way he trashed this country we have nothing else to lose.

    With the train wreck President Obama inherited he's doing a terrific job. And people know it.

    You Republicans left us with this mess. We're not really interested in what you have to say to fix it. We'll just be glad when you're gone.

    July 30, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Here's a republican who cares about his political future. He made his decision based on the right criteria which the republicans who sit on the Judiciary Committee should have done as well.

    July 30, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. Honest AB

    Amazing! If we can just come on one accord and bring this country truly to the greater good of all Americans, it would be wonderful. But I know we can't live in a fairy tale life, division is all this country know. Red states and blue states, democrats and repubicans, liberals and conservatives, whites, blacks, and in betweens, even african americans have their so call brown and black, and the ever so rich, middle class, poor, and so much more. I am just so sick of such a divided nation. It makes you wonder how in the world do anyone get along in this country. I have come to point, where I do not socialize or have anything to do with people on a personal level, because you don't who you are now dealing with these days, just so many hypocrites. They will smile in your face and will talk about you soon as you walk away. Who need friends like this? I decided to just build a stonger relationship with my three beautiful kids and husband and call it a rap. They are the only ones I truly trust. Now, I understand when God says, "Trust NO Man!"

    July 30, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  13. MM

    It's good to know that there are reps that vote w/their own mind instead of along party lines.

    July 30, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. Luke

    I do not think his vote reflects the will of his constituents but they have the votes so move on. We can get back to Obama's misleading fear campaign to dismantle the world's greatest health-care system.

    July 30, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  15. Royster

    A GOP Senator not intimidated by the NRA?? Incredible!!
    Glad Sen. Alexander is showing some common sense where other senators won't..

    July 30, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. jfs Memhis, Tn

    I'm from TN and Alexander is quite aware of the position of this state. He will also have to give some slack on health care..............people in this state are of the belief that if we were ever unemployed it is better to be unemployed with health insurance for yourself and your family than be unemployed without health insurance. How can the rest of the so called GOP be so closed minded and selfish ???

    July 30, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  17. Jimmy

    Finally some sense and common decency from a republican. You don't seem much of that these days. It's refreshing.

    July 30, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  18. Republicans are the American Taliban

    How will John McCain vote????

    July 30, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  19. S Callahan

    Having realatives that spent their lives in Tennessee...and family that worked in the judicial system of Shelby County....I have to say...this man's letter (or words spoken) to the President was very touching....it shows that Tennessee has truely evolved! Well said and thought out.

    Judge Sotomayor is destine for Court...she has the gifts, not given on her own, but endowed to her by a Glorious Creator! Blessings to you Judge Sotomayor!

    July 30, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  20. Esco

    She already has the votes, but one more is never too much.

    July 30, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  21. gideonwayne

    Tennesse must have a lot of latino voters

    July 30, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. gl, From Pittsburgh

    Why do most Repubicans have to but a spin on any thing before the agree on something?

    July 30, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. A former Republican -

    Senator Alexander makes me think maybe I can one day be a Republican again. This person shows character and not hate.

    Thank you, Senator Alexander

    July 30, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  24. Alfred E. Neumann

    Wow, what a crucial vote! I haven't been this thrilled since Clarence Thomas was appointed to sleep on the bench.

    July 30, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  25. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    Surprise surprise, I thought they would all vote against her just so they can say NO some more.

    July 30, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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