GOP quandary: how hard to swing at Sotomayor
Republicans on Capitol Hill are acutely aware that the tone and content of the nominee's hearing could redefine the party after two punishing national elections.
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The comment that has sparked much of the controversy came in a 2001 speech in Berkeley, Calif., on how personal experiences affect a judge's perspective. “I would hope that a 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,” Sotomayor said.Skip to next paragraph
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Questioned on this quotation Sunday on CBS News' “Face the Nation,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona said: “I’m sure she will argue that you have to look at the entire context of her speech, and all of the decisions that she has rendered – the opinions that she has written – and that’s a fair point.”
Senator Kyl is the minority whip and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republicans' 'simple principles'
So far, Senate Republicans are solidly united on the message heading into these hearings. In a floor speech Monday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that he had assured Judge Sotomayor that she would be treated “fairly and respectfully.”
“Throughout this process, Republicans will be guided by a few simple principles. But perhaps the most important ones are these: Americans expect and should receive equal treatment under the law, and Americans want judges who understand their role is to interpret the law, not write it,” he added.
While stopping short of threatening a filibuster, Mr. McConnell said that Republicans expected adequate time to vet her record of some 3,600 cases. “For Justice Alito, the Senate had 70 days to prepare for an informed hearing. And like Judge Sotomayor, Justice Alito had thousands of cases for senators to review,” he said.
President Obama has asked for a vote on the nomination by the end of July.
But what troubles conservative activists in this scenario is the prospect that Senate Republicans, facing a nomination they are likely to lose, may be tempted to contain the fight within the Judiciary Committee, rather than use the fight to build up the conservative movement.
In a June 1 letter, the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of conservative groups, called on Senate GOP leaders to “mobilize all Republican members and staffs and create opportunity for comment and debate, in and out of the Judiciary Committee, on and off the Senate floor, and in and out of Washington, from this moment until the final floor vote.”
“The times have changed, and we expect more from you than once we might have,” the letter concludes.
“From a partisan point of view, there’s no issue that better unites us than this,” says Manuel Miranda, a former Senate Judiciary Committee aide who chairs the Third Branch Conference. “Somehow our elected officials haven’t gotten this memo.”