WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican senators on Wednesday made public their strategy for combating the Supreme Court nomination of appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor, questioning whether she believes the Bill of Rights applies to all Americans.
In particular, a quartet of Republican senators told a news conference that Sotomayor has challenged whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right, which they said contrasts with what the Supreme Court ruled a year ago.
"Judge Sotomayor earlier this year rendered an opinion that held that the Second Amendment was not a fundamental right," noted Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
To Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Sotomayor's opinion amounts to a challenge of whether the Constitution still applies in the United States.
"It's a very important question that goes much beyond the question of bearing arms, but whether or not we still are a constitutional republic," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – When greeting Judge Sonia Sotomayor this week, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama made sure to tell her something loud enough for the assembled reporters to hear.
"You will get a fair hearing before this committee," Sessions told President Obama's Supreme Court nominee with emphatic gestures and tone.
That greeting wasn't just pleasantries. It was a promise born out of his own experience.
President Reagan nominated Sessions to be a federal judge, but the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected him 23 years ago this week.
He is now the top Republican on that panel.
"That is a very odd thing," Sessions told CNN in an interview in his Senate office. "Somebody says it gives new meaning to the word irony."
Talking about that irony brings back a flood of memories that he would rather forget.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday although he believes Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor should get a fair shake, that he already sees some "troubling things" about her.
"There are troubling things that are going to have to be inquired for us to do our job and let the American people know whoever is on the Supreme Court will be faithful to the law passed by the people in the United States," Sessions said in an interview on CNN's American Morning.
Sessions said he doesn't anticipate a filibuster unless there are "serious problems" and that he wants the Judiciary Committee to hold a good, fair and substantive hearing on her nomination.
"I committed that before we had the nominee that any nominee that came before the committee we were going to give a fair shake to," Sessions said. "We're not going to take advantage of them and misrepresent their records as has been done all too often in the past."
Sessions emphasized that a Supreme Court appointment lasts a lifetime, and that once a nominee is confirmed, "we can't even dock their pay."
Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement Tuesday on Sotomayor's nomination:
"The president's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court today is an important step in a constitutional process that includes the advice and consent of the Senate. I congratulate Ms. Sotomayor on her nomination.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee's role is to act on behalf of the American people to carefully scrutinize Ms. Sotomayor's qualifications, experience, and record. We will engage in a fair and thorough examination of Ms. Sotomayor's previous judicial opinions, speeches, and academic writings to determine if she has demonstrated the characteristics that great judges share: integrity, impartiality, legal expertise, and a deep and unwavering respect for the rule of law.
"Of primary importance, we must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one's own personal preferences or political views.
"President Obama has stated his desire to have a full court seated at the start of its next term, a reasonable goal toward which the Judiciary Committee should responsibly and diligently move. But we must remember that a Supreme Court justice sits for a lifetime appointment, and the Senate hearing is the only opportunity for the American people to engage in the nomination process. Adequate preparation will take time. I will insist that, consistent with recent confirmation processes, every senator be accorded the opportunity to prepare, ask questions, and receive full and complete answers.
"I look forward to the coming months as we move forward with this process. As I told the president this morning, I will do all I can to ensure that Ms. Sotomayor receives a fair hearing before the Committee. I firmly believe that the American people deserve a full and thoughtful debate about the proper role of a judge in the American legal system, an issue that will be central to our review of Ms. Sotomayor's record."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senate leaders who met with President Obama today say he told them he'll name his Supreme Court nominee soon.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy made the comments after meeting with the president at the White House. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, also joined Reid.
Obama has said he wants his nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter to be confirmed by the Senate before the start of the next session of the Supreme Court at the beginning of October.
McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, is optimistic that can happen.
"Unless the president sends up a very controversial nominee, the vote should occur well in advance of the first Monday in October, which is when the court reconvenes," said McConnell.
The White House has ruled out any announcement on a high court nominee this week.