July 13th, 2009
10:56 AM ET
11 years ago

Senators signal fierce ideological debate in Sotomayor hearings

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor began Monday with leading Democrats and Republicans signaling a fierce ideological debate over her qualifications to become the nation's first Hispanic justice on the high court.

The Judiciary Committee is considering whether Sotomayor, a federal appellate judge, should be the 111th person to sit on the nation's highest court. If confirmed by both the committee and the full Senate, she would be the third woman justice.

"Judge Sotomayor's journey to this hearing room is a truly American story," committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said after gaveling the first session to order. "Hers is a success story in which all Americans can take pride. ... Let no one demean this extraordinary woman."

Leahy also ripped conservative "ideological pressure groups" for "distorting" Sotomayor's record and opposing a woman who "will be a justice for all Americans."

However, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the committee's ranking Republican, said Sotomayor represents the kind of activist judge that threatens the traditional foundation of the U.S. legal system.

Sessions, a former prosecutor and attorney general in his home state, challenged the attribute of empathy cited by President Barack Obama in nominating Sotomayor.

"Call it empathy, call it prejudice, call it sympathy - whatever it is, it is not law," Sessions said.

In particular, Sessions quoted Sotomayor from past speeches in which she said a wise Latina woman should be able to reach a better ruling than a white man, saying it showed an inherent bias.

"I want to be clear: I will not vote for and no senator should vote for an individual nominated by any president who is not fully committed to fairness and impartiality toward every person who appears before them," Sessions said.

A smiling Sotomayor arrived on Capitol Hill still wearing a cast for a broken ankle she suffered a week after Obama nominated her.

The 55-year-old Sotomayor received a good-luck telephone call Sunday from Obama, according to a White House statement.

Democrats who hold a majority in both the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate have predicted she will easily win approval from both.

If history is a guide, Sotomayor appears certain to get Senate approval with mostly Democratic support. When she won Senate confirmation for the federal appellate court in 1998, there were 29 "no" votes - all cast by Republicans.

Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Kevin in Ohio

    Leahy: ""Hers is a success story in which all Americans can take pride. … Let no one demean this extraordinary woman."

    You mean its was OK for YOU to demean the extraordinary people nominated by Republicans, bur not the other way around? True hypocrisy for the Party Of Hate. The TRUE Party of No.

    July 13, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. Fair is Fair

    tedious898 said,

    "I am not saying the democrats are perfect but they're concern is for the average american. The GOP's main concern is the wallets of big business. I think big business can look out for themselves. The average american needs someone to look out for them".

    BOTH parties are looking out for one thing and one thing only – THEMSELVES. If you believe that big business supports only the GOP, I suggest you take a look at donations made by businesses and PACs to the democratic party as well. And when you do – take a good hard look at where companies such as AIG made the lion's share of their donations. You may be surprised.

    July 13, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  3. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Put on a good show for your constituents, gentlemen, the whole country is watching....but no one is holding their breath, this is a done deal.

    July 13, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    According to a judicial study on Judge Sotomayor, it showed that 98% of the time she sides with the unaminous decision. It's hard to ignore that. So if they disagree with her rulings, that's like saying they disagree with every judge.

    July 13, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  5. Ken

    I agree, let's just have the vote and let these gentlemen get back to trying to get us out of this mess the last administration left us in. And for the gentleman who criticized the stimulus package, let's not forget the first $700 billion which "W" and the Boys wanted with no strings attached and to this day can not say where it went. Oh how I wished just one "real" news agency would just "Follow The Money" and report the Truth.

    July 13, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  6. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Echoing a familiar refrain, lets just hope she gets the same treatement from the republicans as those nice liberal democrats gave to all of Bush's nominees over the last 8 years. But wait, if they did that, it would unfair, biased, personally and professionally destructive and partisan. Once again the libs have blazed the trail, hit her so hard her head spins.

    July 13, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  7. Republicans are the American Taliban

    I want to hear the committee Republicans slander her to her face instead of hiding behind shock jocks and the other hate mongers....

    July 13, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. Andrew, Buffalo NY

    So why is it that the liberal left loves telling personal stories for their own, but discount everyone else's personal story?


    July 13, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Lakita Wright

    Does a persons race, sex, and background have an influence on how they govern? Not if you're a white male, because the Republicans believe they are the only persons who can govern objectively (last I checked nearly 90% of the registered Reps are white males). With regards to Sonja, the Supreme Court Nominee, her race and sex will influence how she'll judge from the bench, just like the 109 out of the 111 past Supreme Court judges who were white males. If there had been more women on the bench, would it have taken 150 years for women to get the vote? If there had been more Blacks & Native Americans, would slavery and genocide been codified and carried out over centuries? Republicans refuse to acknowledge what is obvious to the rest of the world and therefore they will continue to have a credibility issue as the masses stay away in droves. I see it clearly, and I am considered a Black conservative. When will they ever get it?

    July 13, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  10. ella

    Make no mistake – The GOP is the one under the microscope here. They can either choose to be people of character, or go the bigot route. Does not look so good for them right now.

    July 13, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Fair is Fair:
    "I suggest you take a look at donations made by businesses and PACs to the democratic party as well. '

    It is no secret that big businessess have made contributions to both parties, historically. The difference this time around,however, is that Obama did not accept contributions from the PACs, and has made AIG toe the line in regards to bonuses and other perks. Had Johnny been in the White House, it would've been business as usual with the Republicans, once again, looking the other way while big business got bigger and the average American got crushed. This is yet another reason why some of you are up in arms about Obama: it is NOT business as usual.

    July 13, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  12. Zion

    When we learn to get past ideology and focus on interests...boy America will then be a better place. This isn't about Sotomayor. This hearing is about posturing from the right and the left. It's also about prostituting themselves for votes. It's not about the good of the country. Wake up America.

    Zion's famous quote
    You were poor under Democrats, and you were poor under Republicans. Pick your poison.

    July 13, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  13. Doug, New Jersey

    "How foolish is this statement? Sotomayor is a law honor student. I'm pretty sure she has never and would never think that race is a factor in applying the law…unlike David Duke that would support the lynching of any minority.

    You sir no absolutely nada with your uninformed comparisons"

    So what you feel trumps my facts that are based solely on her own words, how lib is that!

    Her own words show that race is a factor in applying the law with her, she feels she will make a better decision than a white male because she is a female latina. Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another. Both David Duke and Sonia Sotomayor believe that is true. I love the "your iniformed comarisons", you as an Obama-bot are unable to respond to my facts since you don't have any Moore-on.org regurgitation for it. My issue with people like you is not that you are a blind partisan lib who functions soley on hate and lies, it is that you don't think for yourself and are told what to say and think from your libeal mind masters. Read the facts and draw your own conclusions, is that really too much to ask?

    July 13, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  14. GOP = Party of Hypocrisy

    Bush appointed 2 far-right white men. These are the only type of justices the GOP wants on the Court. Despite the racists who oppose her because they are pandering to the far-right that controls the GOP, Sotomayor will obviously be confirmed because she is intelligent and extremely well qualified. Her service on the Court will benefit all Americans. By these disgusting personal attacks on Sotomayor, the GOP is saying they don't want any Hispanic votes in 2010 and 2012.

    July 13, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. Lakita Wright

    Senator Grahams' remarks are very heartfelt and sincere, however, he like many of his GOP colleagues have a huge blind spot which limits their insight. It's called hindsight or history. He said, "if he had made the same comment she had made about a wise Latina . . . his career would be over." He lives in a world where he believes freedom and justice has always applied to everyone at all times and all things are equal. If this were the case he would be correct! However, he is not. In this country even a wise Latina can contribute wisdom, and she would be the first Latina in this nations history to actually have a prominent voice. My elderly Black aunts and uncles were called "boy" and "missy" by white children and it was perfectly fine, because traditionally only white males were the dispensers of wisdom. The fact that of the 111 Supreme Court Justices, 109 have been white males is a testament to this. Graham doesn't understand that if he had made the comment it would have been a reinforcement or reintroduction of the "Old Order," Sonja's statement was an interjection of something that has never entered their psyche. Until they come to terms with history they will never be able to positively impact it for the future.

    July 13, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. Mark of Saint Louis

    The libs love her as she is possible racist, definitely biased. She will be ready to "legislate from the bench" and who cares if she doesn't think white guys can make a fair judge, only Latina women. She doesn't care about aborting babies either. Outstanding morals! You libs found another real winner.

    July 13, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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