Obama wins Round One on Sotomayor, but shows caution going forward
Most elected Republicans distance themselves from incendiary comments by Limbaugh, Gingrich, and others.
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On Tuesday, Sotomayor begins her rounds on Capitol Hill for the customary visits with senators who will consider her nomination.Skip to next paragraph
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First on her list are Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the committee. A meeting with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky is also in the works. Sotomayor has already spoken with all four men on the phone.
The private, in-person courtesy calls allow each senator to look her in the eye and take her measure. But they are more than pro forma sessions; they provide senators with an opportunity to ask her questions away from the klieg lights of a hearing room, and allow them to begin formulating more nuanced views of her that can inform the public questioning that will begin this summer.
Already, some of the lines of questioning she will face are coming to the fore.
Her views on affirmative action are likely to be a major area of inquiry, as is her view of the role of judges. Aside from her “wise Latina” comment, her other most cited comment comes from a remark she made on a panel at Duke University Law School in 2005. She told students that federal appeals courts are where “policy is made,” a remark that conservatives are using to show that she is an “activist” judge.
Senator Sessions, one of the elected GOP leaders critical of the incendiary commentary from Gingrich, Limbaugh, and others, says he does not foresee a filibuster of Sotomayor. But he also has said in interviews that he’s not sure the Judiciary Committee will be able to make a decision by August, which is what Obama wants.
Senate Democrats are not assuming that Sotomayor’s confirmation is a sure thing. Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey, chairman of the Democrats’ Senate election committee, has sent out a fundraising letter telling party faithful that “we have a fight on our hands” over Sotomayor.
Republicans are trying to change the subject. In the Republican National Committee’s weekly radio address, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) focused on energy legislation, criticizing what he called “a national energy tax imposed by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s climate change bill.”