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. Anonymous

    Hmmmm – 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 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  2. ok, vote them out of office

    they have their freedom of speech

    but vote them out, saying how you feel does not mean you are acting in the best interest of the country

    vote them out

    July 24, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. Active Duty Democrat

    Repubs opposing something the pres wanna do? What else is new?

    July 24, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. David in Dallas

    While this is not unexpected, it is very sad and shows the true colors of these republic senators. When Democrats were presented the most recent conservative activitsts judges, Roberts and Alito, they gave them a fair hearing and voted accordingly. Most of the republic senators were not prepared to give judge Sotomayor a fair hearing based on her "wise Latina" comment, even though she has explained it repeatedly. The truth to me is that republics have not wanted to "play fair" for about the last 30 years and that is why it has become mostly a regional party of white southern racist, homophobic, gender-biased men.

    July 24, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. Tim S

    Hatch and Cronyn oppose? Of course. They represent the dinosaurs of the Republican Party. That's O.K. Keep obstructing. Eventually you will make the whole party extinct.

    July 24, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. 60's survivor

    NRA got to em sure as I'm breathin southern air!

    July 24, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  7. phoenix86

    Seem that only the republicans (but not all, right Graham) have the moral courage to oppose a racist judge.

    July 24, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  8. Right

    Who needs these losers' opinion ? They represent what is worse with this country. Judge Sotomayor is America's future.

    July 24, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  9. Mark L.

    Congratulations Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas – You have now been promoted as the new Chief and Debuty Chief of the Cambridge Police Department.

    July 24, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  10. judesuper

    And why is that? Because the NRA told you so?

    When are people going to wise up and vote these old, do nothings out of office?

    July 24, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Mark Dover, Delaware

    Gee what a surprise

    July 24, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. cool rock

    I oppose John Coryn and Orin Hatch as American Senators. If you are the patriotice American you guys claim to be, then man up and explain why you don't want Sotomayor as SOTUS? You guys are not representing your states well and need to be looked at just like the rest of your GOP counterpartners ex John Boehner aka leatherface

    July 24, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  13. sensible Cape Coral Fl

    Sonia Sotomayor more than proved her point about a "wise Latina woman". Thank you Orrin and John for giving her all the justification she needs to prove her wisdom.

    July 24, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. Jane

    Heavy heart my eye........pressure from the right wing would be a better explanation

    July 24, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. MCD, SF, CA

    This is all about politics... the republican party wants Obama to fail and they are doing everything in their power to make that happen.... forget about what the majority of the people want... or that these fools actually work for The People and not the republican party!

    I cannot believe that they don't see just how foolish they look when they try to use nonsense to prove their points.... just like the senator who keeps pushing the falsehood that Obama wasn't born here. The republican party has become the party of self-destruction.

    July 24, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  16. Gator

    Good for them, they realize this woman is not right for the job.

    July 24, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  17. T. K.

    So what else is new??? Did anyone really expect for hime to vote for her??? Come on–be for real!!

    July 24, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  18. Rosa

    I hope that senator from Texas is ready to campaign real hard when his term is up. He will not get the Hispanic vote, including my own!!!!

    July 24, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  19. Chris in Texas

    Judge Sotomayor did indeed express the meaning behind her word of this now infamous speach. Frankly, I feel that the opposition is grabbing onto this and trying to make something out of it that really is not there. Come, are they are really saying that they have never said anything in their entire career that was taken out of context? REALLY? I am a Texan through and through but I do have to say that Mr. Cornyn has lost my vote because he is voting on a bias which is exaclty what he is acussing Judge Sotomayor of.

    July 24, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  20. Lemmy

    Two Senators of the Party of NO cave in to the rightwing loony faction. And this is news?

    July 24, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. David Newport, OR

    Good...that just solidifies two very important groups, women and Hispanics, in upcoming elections. There can be no question which party is the party of inclusion and which is not.

    July 24, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. yuri

    OK, you 2 guys are out of the inheritance for a large sum of money. If you want 'em, you'd better toe the line.

    July 24, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  23. Stacey California

    Can you say "hello amnesty!"

    July 24, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. Randy in AZ

    Let me see... her record of 20 years on the bench doesn't count. Don't read her legal opinions, just her public speaches, and draw a conclusion on how she would vote based on them, regardless of her actual legal judgements – did I say of twenty years? Of course, we want someone of judicial experience, but ignore their twenty years of judicial experience when deciding whether or not to support them. Hatch and Cornyn are morons and intellectual lightweights.

    July 24, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  25. dave

    Just two why?

    July 24, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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