GOP criticizes hearing dates for Sotomayor

In a sign cooperation is fraying on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Republican senators vocalized their displeasure Tuesday after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced the confirmation schedule for Sonia Sotomayor.

Sotomayor’s first confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled for July 13, with a final Senate vote set for Aug. 6.

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Republicans said Democrats decided the schedule “unilaterally,” without consulting them, and that they did not learn of the dates until informed through media reports.

GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) attacked the hardest, issuing a veiled threat that the GOP may abandon cooperation on the nomination.

“The Democratic majority is proceeding, in my view, in a heavy-handed fashion, completely unnecessarily, and is basically being dismissive of the minority’s legitimate concerns for a fair and thorough process,” McConnell said. “Because of what our Democratic colleagues are doing and the way they are doing it, it will now be much more difficult to achieve the kind of comity and cooperation on this and other matters.”

The Obama administration wants a final vote before the monthlong congressional recess in August, to allow Sotomayor time to join the court for its October session — and to deny critics the chance to attack her unilaterally.

All of the Senate’s Democratic leaders defended the dates, saying they were reasonable and identical to past timetables. Leahy called them “fair and adequate —fair to the nominee, but also adequate to the United States Senate to prepare for the hearing and Senate consideration.”

But the GOP has been insistent in recent weeks that it wants plenty of time to review Sotomayor’s extensive judicial record, seizing on a past comment of hers that a “wise Latina with the richness of her experiences” has better inherent legal judgment than a white man.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who recently leapfrogged other GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee to secure the ranking position, is under pressure to toe a hard line during the Sotomayor confirmation. He said Tuesday that Republicans want to be fair but thorough, and that he was blindsided by Leahy’s announcement.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Leahy both suggested that was false. Leahy said he hinted strongly to Sessions last week that a July 13 date was likely to be announced.

Much of Tuesday’s arguing centered around the timetables for past nominees, with each party accusing the other of a double standard.

Reid and Leahy, for example, said an Aug. 6 vote on Sotomayor would conform to the 72-day timetable that John Roberts received — but if it is delayed until September, it would create the longest delay between nomination and confirmation for any Supreme Court candidate since 1960.

But McConnell and Sessions said Roberts’s record was far shorter than Sotomayor’s, and that an Aug. 6 date would actually be a far quicker schedule than that followed for any recent nominee.

Meanwhile, the White House on Tuesday continued to push hard for Sotomayor, rolling out some of the nation’s high-profile prosecutors to offer testimony on her behalf.

Vice President Biden was joined by New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau; President of the Police Executive Research Forum and Miami Chief of Police John Timoney; and President of the National District Attorneys Association Joseph Cassilly, who all praised Obama’s nominee as a former prosecutor who “gets it.”

In an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Morgenthau, who recruited Sotomayor to the New York district attorney’s office, noted that in her tenure there the judge was “immediately recognized as a rising star.” He praised her toughness and fairness when she later became a judge.

Biden, likewise, thanked the lawmen for their “moxie” in standing up for Sotomayor, telling them “she has your back.”

Sotomayor, who fractured her ankle Monday, continued a busy series of one-on-one meetings with senators on Tuesday, meeting with a total of seven throughout the day.



Sam Youngman contributed to this article.