Flashback: Bipartisan backing for Sotomayor in '98

President Obama's expected Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, got strong bipartisan support in 1998 to become a U.S. Circuit Court judge. In fact, seven Republicans still in the Senate supported her nomination.

Sotomayor won confirmation from the Senate, controlled then by Republicans, on a vote of 67-29. In all, 25 GOP senators backed Sotomayor, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton. They include: Sens. Robert Bennett (Utah), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.). Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who was then a Republican, also voted for Sotomayor.

Sotomayor also received some support from staunch conservative Republicans; Sens. Jesse Helms (N.C.), Bill Frist (Tenn.) and Rick Santorum (Pa.) voted with the Democrats, none of whom opposed her nomination.

The next vote on Sotomayor could play an interesting role in a couple of primaries.

Now that he's a Democrat, if Specter shows any hesitance to support her, it will probably embolden his liberal enemies. One wonders how forceful potential Specter primary challenger Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) will be in his early comments on the court pick.

Bennett's situation is dicier, now that he has a tough primary challenger in state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R). Adding to his consternation is the fact that Utah has nominating conventions, where very conservative activists could nominate Shurtleff outright with 60 percent of the vote. Bennett seems a likely candidate to switch his position on Sotomayor.

Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Charles Grassley (Iowa) both voted no.

On the Democratic side, vulnerable Sens. Harry Reid (Nev.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.) both toed the party line in voting yea. No Democrat voted against her.

-Aaron Blake