Judiciary Committee set to vote on Sotomayor

The Senate Judiciary Committee has convened for its decision on whether to approve Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the newest member of the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor is not present for today's hearing--she went through four days of questioning two weeks ago--and her approval is all but assured by the committee. Democrats hold a 12-7 edge on the panel, and
all Democrats are expected to support President Barack Obama's nominee as well as at least one GOP senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) opened the meeting with an exhortation on Sotomayor's behalf.

"Judge Sotomayor is well qualified; one need look no further than her experience, ability, temperament and judgment," Leahy said. "The president nominated a person with more federal judicial experience
than any nominee in the last 100 years. He nominated someone with federal trial judge experience and someone who was a prosecutor."

Leahy went on to push back against Republican criticism that Sotomayor will be an activist judge, saying that "in her 17 years on the bench there is not one example, let alone a pattern, of her ruling based on
bias or prejudice or sympathy."

Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions (Ala.) painted a far different picture of Sotomayor in his opening statement, saluting her performance during the confirmation hearings but repeated his Monday statement that he will oppose the nomination out of fear that Sotomayor won't judge cases dispassionately.

The committee has convened in a dramatically different format than Sotomayor's hearings two weeks ago. Instead of the formal dias, the committee has gathered around a series of folding tables, grouped into a square and draped in black.

--J. Taylor Rushing