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. notabushwhacker

    Need votes?

    July 30, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  2. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    Naturally Senator Alexander will be raked over the coals and called RINO for daring to have an opinion based on the facts at hand rather than a talking points memo.

    July 30, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. Cindy

    Nice to see a Republican thinking for himself these days. You can bet your bottom dollar the Republican Party will smear him at his next re-election. Afterall, being a good Republican requires you to vote strictly with the Party.

    July 30, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Cece

    Nice to see a Republican finally thinking for himself.

    July 30, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. Rob Johnson

    I once predicted the over/under on Sotomayor's confirmation vote at around 68 votes, but now I'm thinking it will be more like 72.

    All the Republican outrage and energy spent on opposing Sotomayor will turn out to be as worthwhile as challenging Obama's citizenship. Just a lot of hot air and bluster for the base, while they continue to alienate minorities and moderates. Not a winning plan.

    July 30, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. Deb

    Wonder if the poor Senator will be the target of the head of the Republican party...Rush Limbaugh.

    July 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. Aimee

    I look for Ann Coulter, Rush and Karl to bash this guy non-stop.

    July 30, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. dominican mama 4 Obama

    .....And we thank you for your support.

    July 30, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. Margaret

    At least there is one respectable Republican out there.

    July 30, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    I wonder if Sotomayor were a Republican instead of a Democrate or even nominated by a Republican President if there would be this much flak over confirmation?

    July 30, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. Jack

    We just had the most partisan 8 years ever for judicial appointees from the democrats so maybe they can learn something. Seems unlikely since more qualified judges have been pilloried by the left.

    July 30, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  12. shucks

    These republicans better watch themselves. They will be blacklisted by their own party and won't get any funding at re-election time. Worst of all they will have to answer to Rush Limbaugh.

    July 30, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. Paul in Miami

    Does this surprise anyone? The republicans want to teat, discredit and deny Obama his pic for the supreme court. They could care less about the nation or its good. They have just told every hispanic that they are too racist to allow a hispanic woman on the court. They can give lip service to what ever excuse they want. They are the party of hate and don't have the best of the country at heart. Fools and bigger fools.

    July 30, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. makesUwonder

    Sen. Alexander...............a true politician..............will do anything to get the next vote.

    July 30, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. RaeNanda Pointer

    What a joke, the only reason so many liberals here support Sotomayor is because she is a liberal and they know it. How transparent. How gullible. As for these Republicans, the only reason these Republicans vote for her is because they want to be reelected and they don't have the powerful media on their side. Their sole purpose is to take away the "race card" from their next election. How transparent. How cowardly. Vote Libertarian on your next election.

    July 30, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Allelujah

    Good. some republicans have some common sense.

    July 30, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. Nunya

    I wish that more people on both sides held such a rational view of the process.

    July 30, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  18. Muzby

    I think it would be highly unlikely Senator Alexander would be voted out of office if he decided to run for re-election. In the last election he carried all but one of TN's 95 counties. TN has been a red state for some time now. In fact, Al Gore didn't even carry TN in the 2000 election.

    I am from TN and a big Obama supporter. I voted for Obama and every other Democrat on the ticket – except for one. That was Lamar Alexander. His statement regarding the nomination process of Supreme Court Justices is an example why.

    July 30, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  19. Doug, New Jersey

    "I wonder if Sotomayor were a Republican instead of a Democrate or even nominated by a Republican President if there would be this much flak over confirmation?"

    Just study your history for your answer. The Democrats denied both Alito and Estrada soley for being hispanics who were not liberals. Both of them respect the law and constitution much more so than Sotomayor, which is why the Democrats denied them. It is pretty clear the message that Democrats send to minorities, don't you dare not be a liberal or we will devote every resource we have to destroy your life, but that's not racist or anything.

    July 30, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. Doug, New Jersey

    "They have just told every hispanic that they are too racist to allow a hispanic woman on the court. "

    So Paul from Miami, what did the liberal Democrats say when they denied both Alito and Estrada because all Democrats feel that minorities are not allowed to choose their own beliefs and ideology?

    July 30, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. Al-NY,NY

    Add Lamar to the growing list of newly minted "RINO's" to be piloried by fat boy, Shammity, skan# Coulter, etc. To further push their party out of significance, Alexander, Snowe, Collins, etc will now be targeted come election time and know what? The lemmings will follow the Feuhrer Rush and his band of merry haters into the abyss and nominate candidates that only the red-meat base could support. Adios GOP.......

    July 30, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  22. Darth Vadik, CA

    Wow, a Republican from Tennessee backing Sotomayor, I'm impressed, maybe there is a little sanity left in the GOP, or more likely an alterior motive, but still, I'm impressed.

    Aaaaaa, now I know, he's just affraid of running against Harold Ford. Well that makes sense, but like I said, good judgment on this one Lamar.

    July 30, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. Concerned in CA

    Thank you Senator. You have shown that you too are "well qualified by experience, temperament, character and intellect to serve."

    July 30, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. Lynda/Minnesota

    How refreshing – a republican who shows maturity and level headedness. Thank you, Senator Alexander.

    July 30, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    Will Sen. Alexander be the next Republican to fall to the Rush Windbag machine? Another courageous Republican doing the right thing.

    Thanks, Sen. Alexander.

    July 30, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
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