Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Will the Senate Confirm Sotomayor?

President Obama nominated Second District Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court this morning.

Here is the full video of the announcement. Watch it until the end for some insightful analysis from the NBC correspondents.

There is already a great deal of criticism coming from the right. Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) today called the appointment “the clearest indication yet that President Obama’s campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bipartisan way were mere rhetoric.”

Meanwhile, Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, said Sotomayor was “a radical pick that divides America…This appointment would provide a pedestal for an avowed judicial activist to impose her personal policy and beliefs onto others from the bench at a time when the Courts are at a crossroads.”

Here they are referring to the now widely circulated video of Sotomayor sitting on a panel at Duke University in 2005.

But this was undoubtedly already seen by the President’s staff during the vetting process, and a little more footage indicates that she was talking about precedent and not actually policy - making it a perfectly reasonable statement.

However, the criticisms won’t end there. In a 2002 speech at Berkeley she said that a judge’s personal background “affect the facts that judges choose to see” and “I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging, but I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”

At face value, that already is enough to fuel the fire against Sotomayor in the confirmation process, where Republicans will accuse her of judicial activism. But these remarks will be complemented by her recent ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano, in which she sided with the city of New Haven, Connecticut over a group of white firefighters after the city threw out the results of a promotion exam because too few minorities scored high enough.

This explains why Huckabee said “If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.”

Nonetheless, Republican leaders have already said they will reserve judgment on Sotomayor until they have more information.

From Politico:

“Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele released a restrained statement, declaring: “Republicans will reserve judgment on Sonia Sotomayor until there has been a thorough and thoughtful examination of her legal views.”

But it already looks like she may have obstacles to overcome. In 1998, Senate Republicans held up the confirmation to her current bench for a year. When she was finally confirmed, it was with the approval of only seven of the current forty Republican Senators. Some, specifically Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), have begun to sound skeptical of whether they will support her again.

Among the Republicans who voted against her were current Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Whip John Kyl (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), and a particularly important one, ranking Judiciary Committee member Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Each of them will be instrumental going in to the fight against her confirmation.

It will be an ugly battle, but will she still be confirmed?

As the media digs through her life and career, we will learn more about Sotomayor and more about what could prevent her from being confirmed.

As of now, she should have no problem getting through the Judiciary Committee, although she may not have the luxury of any GOP votes there.

The only way for Republicans to defeat her confirmation then is a filibuster. This action would have several backlashes for the GOP

First, each of the Republicans that fight for a filibuster will be subject to the political pressure of looking like a hypocrite. When several Democrats tried to filibuster Justice Samuel Alito the Senate Republicans had a fit over what they perceived as a misuse of filibusters.

Second, they would fail. It is unlikely that every single Republican will vote against cloture. The GOP Senators from Maine, in particular, will likely support her confirmation. It is also probable that Senators such as Judd Gregg (R-NH) will support cloture (even if he opposes her confirmation) in order to appease their liberal constituents. Gregg, Snowe, and Collins all approved her confirmation to her current bench.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many Republicans will not want to oppose the first Hispanic nominee for the High Court. As blogger Glenn Thrush wrote this morning, “every GOP leader with a pulse knows that opposing her could accelerate the stampede of Latinos out of the GOP in the southwest, west and Texas.”

As of now, we can expect Sotomayor to be confirmed.

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