Sotomayor speedy with questionnaire

This just in from the White House:
Today, at 2:00PM EDT, the White House will deliver Judge Sonia Sotomayor's questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee--just 9 days after being nominated to the Supreme Court. For context, this is the swiftest questionnaire completion in recent history. Based on the time between a nominee's designation and when they returned their questionnaire, it took Chief Justice Roberts 13 days, Justice Ginsburg 15 days and Justice Alito 30 days to complete their questionnaires.

The questionnaire covers basic information about Sotomayor's background, education, professional memberships, pro bono work, publications, etc. Here's a PDF version.

The speedy completion of the questionnaire is part of a push by the White House to move Sotomayor's nomination through the Senate as quickly as possible. The W.H. wants confirmation hearings in July, before the August recess. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, has suggested September.

Sotomayor's Thursday Schedule

Here is Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's schedule on Capitol Hill Thursday.

10:30 Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

11:30 Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)

12:15 Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

1:00 Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)

2:45 Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

3:30 Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

4:15 Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.)

5:00 Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.)

5:45 Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Some more context on Sotomayor's 'wise Latina' remark

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in 1994 delivered a speech that included a remark very similar to the 2001 "wise Latina" sentence that is driving conservative criticism. But in 1994, it didn't make any waves.

Greg Sargent broke the news of the 1994 speech Wednesday and noted that no one brought it up when Sotomayor was confirmed to the Court of Appeals in 1998.

The Wall Street Journal also provided some more context on Thursday on the 2001 speech. Evidently, audience members didn't think the remark was very controversial.

From the Journal:
The 2001 address, delivered at an auditorium in Boalt Hall, the law school of the University of California, Berkeley, was part of a symposium called "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation." About 100 Hispanic lawyers and law students attended.

"I don't think anybody thought it was incendiary or inflammatory or anything like that," said Rachel Moran, then a Berkeley law professor. Ms. Moran, who is Hispanic, invited Judge Sotomayor, whom she had known at Yale Law School.

Chris Arriola, a deputy district attorney in Santa Clara County, Calif., agreed. "I took it as she was using an opposite to make a point," said Mr. Arriola, an active supporter of the Sotomayor nomination. "She was trying, as I understood it, to dispel the myth that somehow minority judges were the 'other' with an inability to be fair."

Poll: Sotomayor maintains high approval rating

Sonia Sotomayor performed well in another poll on Thursday, as a Quinnipiac survey found that 55 percent of respondents approve of her nomination to the Supreme Court.

A quarter of respondents in the poll disapproved of the nomination.

Sotomayor has performed well in most polls following her nomination. A recent Gallup poll found that a similar percentage - 54 - say Sotomayor should be confirmed.

The Quinnipiac poll found that Sotomayor's approval rating has remained constant over the last week, and indication that conservative attacks may not be working.

"So far the Republicans have barely laid a glove on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor," said Peter Brown, assistant polling director at Quinnipiac. "There may be disputes within the Beltway about her nomination, but she is still playing well in Peoria."

Democrats approve of Sotomayor's nomination by a 80 percent to 5 percent margin, while Republican disapprove of it 47 percent to 30 percent.

Here is a breakdown of Sotomayor's approval rating among key demographics:
49 - 29 percent among white voters;
85 - 2 percent among black voters;
58 - 24 percent among Hispanic voters;
51 - 26 percent among white Catholics;
66 - 18 percent among Jews;
43 - 37 percent among white Protestants
White evangelical Christians oppose the nomination 41 - 35 percent.

Notably, Sotomayor hasn't performed well in every poll. Another Quinnipiac poll earlier this week found that a strong majority disagree with her ruling in the controversial Ricci case.

There was a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent in the survey.

Obama calls for 'broader engagement' with Muslim world

In a lengthy speech in which he quoted the Koran, Holy Bible and Torah, President Obama on Thursday called for a "new beginning" between the U.S. and the Muslim world by saying there is more that unites the world than divides. it.

Speaking at in Cairo, Egypt, Obama said he seeks a relationship "based upon mutual interest and mutual respect."

"And one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition," Obama said. "Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

Obama said he did not expect his speech to fundamentally change the dynamic in the region, but he hoped it would begin a process of changing that relationship.

"But I am convinced that in order to move forward," he said, "we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors."

Drawing upon his own experience with his father's Muslim family, Obama broke down his remarks into seven sections. First, he addressed violent extremism in the Muslim world. He reiterated that the U.S. will never be "at war with Islam," but emphasized the U.S.'s dedication to "confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security."

He also addressed U.S. operations in Afghanistan and emphasized that he does not want to permanently station troops in the country. "We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can," he said. "But that is not yet the case."

In an extended part of the speech, Obama also discussed the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The president emphatically stated that there must be a two-state solution. "If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth," Obama said. "The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest."

The president then discussed Iran's nuclear program and said that the country does have the right to a peaceful nuclear power program. But Obama added that he seeks to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in all countries around the world.

"That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

Obama also didn't shy away from a direct rebuke of the previous administration in discussing democracy in the region. The president said "no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other" and "America does not presume to know what is best for everyone," an apparent direct contradiction to the Bush administration's desire to install Democracy in Iraq.

Obama also said, though, that there are certain rights he believes everyone has.

"I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose," he said. "Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

Sessions: No date set for Sotomayor hearings

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave a dour report Wednesday on progress towards a confirmation hearing schedule for Supreme Court nominee Sonia
Sotomayor, saying there is too little information.

Sessions met with committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Wednesday morning to discuss a hearing schedule, but no decision was reached. Sessions noted that Sotomayor still has to complete a
questionnaire for the Judiciary Committee and the FBI has not yet finished its investigation into her.

"One of the problems is that we don't have enough information," Sessions told The Hill. "We haven't seen her questionnaire back, and the FBI hasn't completed its work... These are things that just point
out that we're not ripe for making any decisions right now."

There is no deadline for Sotomayor to complete the Judiciary Committee questionnaire, said a committee aide.

The Obama administration is pushing for a confirmation vote by the start of the congressional recess in August, but GOP senators have protested they want more time. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on
Tuesday declined to agree to any "arbitrary deadline."

- J. Taylor Rushing

Clinton to 'This Week' for first interview since election

In her first Sunday show interview since her presidential campaign, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will headline ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

ABC announced on Wednesday that Clinton will appear opposite host George Stephanopoulos to discuss the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the Obama administration.

Clinton, ABC notes, ended her presidential campaign a year ago this week.

New Hampshire one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage

New Hampshire's legislature passed legislation on Wednesday that paves the way for the state to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Manchester Union Leader reports that both chambers of the state legislature passed legislation that Gov. John Lynch (D) plans to sign it.

When Lynch signs it, New Hampshire will join Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut and Maine in legalizing same-sex marriage.

Obama lays down markers on healthcare

It's just two-pages long and most of what it says could've been lifted from the Obama campaign website but the letter President Obama sent to Capitol Hill Wednesday could well mark the moment when the epicenter of healthcare reform moved west on Pennsylvania Ave from Capitol Hill to the White House.

One day after meeting with more than 20 Democratic senators, Obama sent a letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that more rigidly defines what he wants in the healthcare reform bill he's hoping to sign before the end of the year.

Obama starts out by praising the senators work so far and observing that they are all most on the same page. For example, Obama writes, "The plans you are discussing embody my core belief that Americans should have better choices for health insurance, building on the principle that if they like the coverage they have now, they can keep it, while seeing their costs lowered as our reforms take hold."

The president then goes on to say the bill's got to have a public option, it can't legally require poor people to buy insurance they can't afford, it can't mandate that small companies offer insurance or pay into healthcare fund, and hints pretty strongly that Obama still doesn't like the idea of taxing workers' health insurance benefits.

- Jeffrey Young

Graham: Sotomayor might have a 'character problem'

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said today that Sonia Sotomayor might have a "character problem," adding that if he applied the same standard to her that Obama had applied to Sam Alito, he would vote against her.

"There's a character problem," Graham told reporters after meeting Sotomayor, adding that he needed to determine that "her temperament problem is...not who she is."

Graham cited comments by lawyers who had appeared before Sotomayor in court as evidence that she might not be fit to be a justice. He is likely referring to comments in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which Jeffrey Rosen cited in The New Republic recently:
Sotomayor can be tough on lawyers, according to those interviewed. "She is a terror on the bench." "She is very outspoken." "She can be difficult." "She is temperamental and excitable. She seems angry." "She is overly aggressive--not very judicial. She does not have a very good temperament." "She abuses lawyers." "She really lacks judicial temperament. She behaves in an out of control manner. She makes inappropriate outbursts." "She is nasty to lawyers. She doesn't understand their role in the system--as adversaries who have to argue one side or the other. She will attack lawyers for making an argument she does not like."

Graham said he needed to determine whether those comments were representative of Sotomayor's demeanor or just a "small slice of the pie."

"I just don't like bully judges," said Graham, a former attorney.

Graham also used his remarks to blast President Obama's vote against Sam Alito's confirmation in 2005. The South Carolina Republican said that if he used the standard Obama used to judge Alito, then he would not be able to support Sotomayor.

Obama said during Alito's confirmation process that Senators should engage in an "examination of a judge's philosophy, ideology, and record."

Graham said if he were judging Sotomayor's ideology, he would certainly vote against her.

"He used a standard that would make it impossible, I think, for a person of the opposite party to be able to confirm a nominee of someone of the other party," Graham lamented.