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. Joshua College Station Texas

    The (other) Mormon and the Texan. Both skewed by idealist politics and hypocritical agendas. No wonder.

    July 24, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. buckwheat

    As a Republican I recognize bloviating. It is like a set of wind chimes, not worth a squat, and very irritating after about 2 minutes. Like all politicians they want something. Probably behind in the polls.

    July 24, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  3. Sean

    Republicans are making themselves look more and more petty and vindictive with every passing day. This is nothing more than political strategizing that puts Republican desires first, and what's good for the country second. Get your party together Republicans.

    July 24, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. Blacks in Texas

    Shame on the whole police department. If the arresting officer of Cambridge said he wouldn't apologize then why should the President of the United States apologize? The entire department have the look of police who have a problem with blacks. This is all over the entire United States. What we are all not realizing is that we all breath and eat and the same air and food, black and white. Blacks aren't going any where get over us being around . We're here to stay.

    blk in Texas

    July 24, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. yuri

    Oh, Mr. Hatch, please don't feel sad for not being able to vote for Sotomayor. Go back to tour livin' grave and engage, if you can, in transcendental meditation. May be you will get an enlightenment. Ah, take that cranky Cronyn with you, lest he will feel left out. If possible, learn a trick or two about how to become a cantankerous clown. You will do a lot better job than Bozo.

    July 24, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  6. DX in TX

    So what ...who needs them....

    July 24, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Jim, Honolulu

    As a Republican, I continue to be aghast at the continuing disintegration of my party. Ms. Sotomayor is as or more qualified than any member currently sitting on the Supreme Court, and a no vote against her is invariably only political in nature. Sen. Hatch is one thing, since he comes from the radical far-right white-supremacist state of Utah. But I was hoping that Sen. Cornyn would be a little more open-minded and fair. But I guess the GOP still remains on the a path that is leading us toward becoming a minor regional party. How sad.

    July 24, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. PA Voter

    Hatch is just buckling under the NRA's threats, and Cornyn is frankly no surprise. Sotomayor wouldn't have been my first choice, but she is qualified and will make a decent Justice. She doesn't need the NRA puppets to get confirmed, but Cornyn and others will need the Hispanic vote to get re-elected. Good luck with all that!

    July 24, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Wonder if he has to work on Hatches bill to change the BSC rules? You know, they didn't really research Sotomayor, they were too busy writing a bill to shove thru congress about BSC rules. Guess that must be taking their time away from working on healthcare too.

    Oh well, they have their guns, their sports, their retirements and their healthcare paid by us. NICS

    July 24, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. Tony in Maine

    How terribly sad that the last conservative with a conscience has lost his to ideology. The Senate is less for this.

    July 24, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. Reginald Day virginia

    The Latino's in their states should against these senators reelection and try to replace them with Latino Senators. This nominee has the best qualitifications of anyone in the past 32 years, but because she is Latino and not white they can't vote for her. Yet they always cry the best qualified should advance. Yet these two senators can't get pass skin color.

    July 24, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  12. Lauren

    Based on his questioning of her, I saw this coming.

    July 24, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  13. Zero.

    So? So? So? Mr Obama??????Did you apologise???????

    July 24, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  14. Jon

    We'll see how John Cornyn feels about his vote during his next re-election bid. I can see hispanic groups already forming with a campaign commerical, ala "Cornyn voted against the only Hispanic judge every confirmed to the Supreme Court. Cornyn does not have the interests of his state at heart."

    I don't necessarily feel that way, but Texas is slowly becoming a purple state and others may feel that way. His next re-election bid is in 2014. I'd say Texas might look different demographically in 5 years.

    July 24, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  15. Ilona Proud Canadian


    Now what's new................

    July 24, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. johnnie

    so it Utah and Texas, who oppose what is going to be comfirmed by the Majority. So its Hatch and Cornyn. being the (Cry Babies) they are and (WHIMPING OUT) is what The Grand Old Party is all about (NOTHING) How and Why could you in your right mind ,not support Judge Sotomayors Comformation, as i have said ,and will continue to (WORD) the (GOP) has fallen into thye (POLICTAL ABYSS). Because these 2 want attention, and cant have it their way anymore, they stoop to this (LOW). The is a (BETTER DAY AHEAD) for the NATION of all (WALKS) of life, and we will not fall back into the (PAST) we (RISE) WE have (ARISEN)......

    July 24, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  17. Colin

    It's amazing what happens when a the NRA threatens to withdraw support from candidates who vote for Sotomayor.

    July 24, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. Zero.

    Obama's spoksman trying to choose words, with the mentallity of a five year. Must be degrading information to these Newsmen

    July 24, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  19. two left shoes

    They have a right to vote no, and they have a right to be offended, but I think that she is going to suprise everybody, I think she will end up another Roberts! ir Suter in reverse!

    July 24, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  20. Phyllis

    anyone surprised?

    July 24, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  21. Jon

    Oh yea, I forgot to add - those from Texas know what I am talking about - This is "Big Bad John" afterall.

    July 24, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    That is of no consequence.

    July 24, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  23. Jeff

    Cornyn just got re-elected and has 4-5 years to vote like this before he makes another last-minute effort to brush up his public image.

    July 24, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  24. Hank in Seattle

    Sure – why not, now that it's safe? Voting no is a freebie with the Republican base. Note that opposition was not declared until AFTER other moderate Republicans came out in support of Sotamayor, clinching her confirmation. That frees Hatch and Cornyn to toss some red meat to the base, while incurring little additional risk of being seen as obstructionist by independents and moderate Republicans (the half-dozen left). Sure, there's a risk with Hispanic voters in the West, but they are deserting the Republicans in droves – this is a tacit admission by Cornyn that he considers Hispanics largely lost.

    July 24, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  25. Nancy in Illinois

    Hatch was before her before he was against her. He voted yes when Bush 41 put her on a Federal bench. Now, when she's put up for SCOTUS by a Democratic president, he's against her. Do you Repubs even remember when you first sold out? Why don't you just come out and say it's because she's a Latina woman? The Repubs asking questions during her confirmation couldn't have been more racist or gender-biased. It was hideous to hear them call her a bully and say she was a problem. Not one of them would have described a man that way. Disgusting.

    July 24, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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