With scant support for Sotomayor, did the GOP hurt itself?
Republicans need to attract more Hispanic voters. But just nine in the Senate approved the first Hispanic justice’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
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The final 68 to 31 vote, with nine Republican cross-overs, places Sotomayor midway between Chief Justice John Roberts, who was confirmed 78 to 22 with 22 Democrat cross-overs, and Justice Samuel Alito who was confirmed 58 to 42, with only four Democrat cross-overs. Although better than Alito, Sotomayor’s number of cross-over votes was lower than Justice Clarence Thomas, who won the votes of 11 Democrats.Skip to next paragraph
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During the two-month confirmation battle, Republican opponents focused on Sotomayor’s writings and controversial speeches, while Democrats emphasized her compelling personal story, her long record as a judge, her gender, and her ethnicity.
Some political analysts suggested Republicans would face a backlash by Hispanic voters if they didn’t support Sotomayor. Republicans attempted to counter that threat by discussing Democratic filibusters during the Bush administration that prevented Miguel Estrada, a Honduran-born lawyer, from obtaining an up-or-down vote on his nomination to a federal appeals court.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey said Republican lawmakers who voted “no” on Sotomayor sent the wrong message on Thursday. “For Hispanics, we often get told you have to work harder,” he said. So when a nominee arrives who has succeeded at Princeton, Yale Law School, as a prosecutor, corporate lawyer, and as a judge, Senator Menendez said, many Hispanics were watching to see if she could break that final barrier to the Supreme Court.
“If you meet all the challenges you are told you have to meet and still can be told ‘no,’ then it sends a tough message to our community,” he said.
Her arrival on the high court next month is not expected to significantly shift outcomes in controversial cases. Some analysts say the real import of her confirmation is that at age 55 she may serve as a justice for 20 or 30 years and lay the groundwork for an eventual shift in the high court’s jurisprudence.
“She is not going to be another vote. She is not going to be another voice [on the Supreme Court],” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York. “She is going to be a real leader who will lead the court back to the mainstream.”
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