July 24th, 2009
12:54 PM ET
14 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. Joseph-Ohio

    Give me a break......If it has The President's blessings, then Republicans will object. Sit back everyone, we have 3 1/2 more years of this childish leadership to deal with. Sotomayor is the most qualified candidate nominated to the court in over 20 years, with more expereince than our current Chief Justise! Yet Republicans are against her. Mark my word, if she was a Republican they would be singing her praises 24/7. Will we ever remove politics from everything we do!.....I bet these guys are Palin lovers too. Wow Sotomayor is not good enough for the court, but a quitter is good enough to represent your party. Republicans please grow up!

    July 24, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Fla.

    It is "No" surprise that Senators Coryn & Hatch have succumbed to their "base."

    How are they considered "key" when Judge Sotomayor's qualifications & experience has the support she needs to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. Godspeed.

    July 24, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. george in alaska

    concerning republicans & opposition to an obiviously qualified supreme court candidate, Kristi Keck of cnn wrote a ridiculous article "palin's resignation hardly a curtain call". it is quite laughable that folks in the lower 48 think she is (or ever has been) popular to the majority of alaskans. as an alaskan, i can tell you unequivically and with direct knowlegde that this woman is despised by anyone up here except goony brained evangelicals and wassila residents.

    July 24, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. The Party of HELL NO!

    I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Obama and the Democrats (sounds like a bad Afghani doo-wop band) push the healthcare issue to the supreme court in an attempt to "overturn" the laws of economics and supply and demand.

    While you're at it, Dems, why not just try to overturn the laws of gravity, thermodynamics and relativity... @$$hats.

    In the meantime, I'm going back to my exclusive private club for wise latinas with the rich history of their experiences... no stupid white men need apply.

    July 24, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  5. Don't approve

    Punits say Aericans don't approve of strong and capable women:

    Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, SarahPalin...etc !!!!! and we say
    America approves 100% so Pundits get a life!

    July 24, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  6. C

    Hatch is afraid of the NRA. Typical politician....no backbone.

    July 24, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Surprise! Suprise! Is this really news, tell us what key democrats oppose Judge Sotomayor that would be news.

    July 24, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. Kelby In Houston, TX

    I would like to point out that in todays congress, both The House as well as The Senate, there is NO SUCH THING as a "key republican". They have diminishing influence, no viable ideas or solutions and with each passing day, the republican party is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
    They have become known for their knee-jerk response to everything, "NO". And they criticize, ridicule and obstruct all attempts to progress with no viable alternaive.
    So, it really doesn't matter if these particular Senators vote no. Democrats are in a position where we can do things without them. The idea of bipartisan cooperation went out of the window when we didn't get ANY republican votes for the stimulus package even after we included their ideas and input into the bill. It's time to move on.

    July 24, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Anne

    I'm sure this has nothing to do with the threat issued by the NRA that it would make note of any senator who supports her confirmation.

    July 24, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. Lee from Maine

    What a shocker! These dyed in the wool, good-ol-boy obstructionist – okay, idiots – just don't get it, do they? Keep going guys, you're guaranteeing the death of your party. Couldn't have asked for more.

    July 24, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. Leta

    John Coryn go figure he is a Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Delbert McDougal, Arnold Mincey, Jr., Debbie Turner ASS LICKER....

    John Coryn, You were a sorry Attorney General in Lubbock Texas and you are a sorry ass Senator with the moral ethical compass of a JACK ASS

    July 24, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. GOP = 21st century dodo

    A look of horror and shock failed to appear on my face.

    July 24, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  13. WhiteMan

    GOP = racist scum. Thanks for proving it senators.

    July 24, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  14. John -- White Plains, NY

    Troublesome campaign for Cornyn is what awaits him. Very follish to vote against a Hispanic when a huge # of his constituents are Hispanic. Let's see if Kay bailey Hutchinson is that foolish.

    As for Hatch, this is a surprise. She's clearly more qualified than Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. I guess her 17 years of experience on the Federal bench is not enough...poor misguided Orrin Hatch...

    July 24, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. Fred the Moderate

    Orin Hatch didn't suprise me. He's the one who attacked Anita Hill during the hears in the 80's placeing the most unqualified supreme court justice in history on the bench – Clarence Thomas! Thomas didn't have near the grades, credentials or experience Mayor has, but he was a faithful, good Republican and Reagan knew he was controlable and his nomination would stop any future Black Judges from being nominated for decades. It worked and the Black community hasn't had a supreme court justice on the bench that sees through their eyes sense Thurgood Marshal.

    July 24, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  16. ck1

    Of course they won't vote for a qualified candidate if their constituents do not want them to vote for them. When the NRA is threatening you, you shut up and listen. Must be a close race for re-election and can't risk the votes. Oh well. Politics as usual. No surprises here.

    July 24, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  17. Leta

    Oh my gosh and ORIN HATCH its amazing how loud you speak when you don't say a thing....Welcome Iran Contra Scandal stumbling block....scum rises to the top when stired...

    July 24, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  18. ginbo

    Looks like the recent NRA comments about opposing any senator who votes for Sotomayor has had its effect on Orrin Hatch and probably the Tx senator (Cornyn), but that one's not surprising..

    July 24, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  19. Leta

    Pete teatering on the fence.....LOL

    July 24, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  20. Jessica

    And this was a surprise?? Look at Hatch's track record. He's worthless.

    July 24, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  21. POEMAN

    Wow.... I'm shocked! Maybe Obama should have nominated his cleaning person.

    July 24, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. bsmith171

    intellectually she's not qualified.

    she's an affirmative action candidate,.
    actually the best description would be 'kinda dumb'.

    July 24, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. Amy

    I certainly hope that every Hispanic voter in Texas vote to oust Cornyn when the time comes. Sotomayor is the most qualified person to sit on the bench at this time, and I have to believe that a vote against her would likely be based on something other than her qualifications. Perhaps her gender? Her ethnicity? If Cornyn had his way, I'm sure the Supreme Court would remain an all caucasian male court.

    July 24, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. Darin

    Hopefully there will be an appropriate outcry in Texas against Cornyn's ridiculous opposition. Surely this Neanderthal does not represent the views of his state properly. Opposing a qualified judge based on his outdated personal opinions is embarrassing to me as a resident of this state.

    July 24, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  25. laurence

    Cornyn is understandable, he's a Texan who isn't fond of minorities. Orin Hatch I believe has yielded to pressure of the big money backers and the one size fits all republican party that typically colors with only one (color) of his state. Lets face it, we've got a huge problem in this nation and unless we are honest about it we may as well kiss the whole thing good-bye. With Rush and a whole slew of other republicans crying that (white) people are being disciminated against in a country known as one of the most if not the most notorious slave natin in the world beating the war drums, it's no wonder someone like Hatch would openly say he's not voting for Sotomayor. This is troubling to say the least because how can people say they love (their) country and hate their fellow countrymen? It is simply impossible. You canot reconcile ssuch behavior with truth or justice. It just can't be done. I think I'll be going to my local gun shop to buy me plenty of guns and ammo because I have a strange feeling I'm going to need it before long as one of my white neighbors has already signified his feelings towards us by wielding a hand gun in his backyard as a gesture aimed at the 2 and 3 years my wife keeps in her in-home daycare. I'm not kidding, this is true.

    July 24, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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