By J. Taylor Rushing - 07/28/09 07:27 PM EDT
Senate Judiciary Committee members on Tuesday approved the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, 13-6.
Every panel Republican, except for Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamShutdown risk grows over Flint Senate poised to override Obama veto Overnight Defense: Debate night is here | Senate sets vote on 9/11 veto override | Kerry, McCain spar over Syria MORE (S.C.), voted no.
GOP senators point to a variety of factors to explain their indecision — the distraction of health reform, Sotomayor’s 17-year judicial record and a desire to wait until after the committee vote.
Mindful of the time crunch, ranking Judiciary Committee member Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsTrump, Clinton discuss counterterrorism with Egyptian president GOP senators want immigration details on attack suspects GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Ala.) has offered his GOP colleagues access to hearing transcripts and analyses.
But many Republicans said they just haven’t gotten around to making up their minds.
“I haven’t made any decision,” said 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCainJohn McCainPundits react: Clinton won first debate Overnight Defense: Debate night is here | Senate sets vote on 9/11 veto override | Kerry, McCain spar over Syria Kerry fires back at McCain: I'm not 'delusional' MORE (Ariz.).
Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidShutdown risk grows over Flint Overnight Finance: Four days left to avert shutdown | Conservative group bucks spending bill | Lawmakers play catch-up on smartphone banking Reid blasts GOP senator over Flint 'hostage' comments MORE (D-Nev.) said the nomination will be considered before the Senate recesses next Friday.
Graham said he understands Republican criticism of Sotomayor but believes she is within the mainstream.
“I base my vote on qualifications, and I came away from the hearing feeling she was well-qualified,” Graham said. “I would not have chosen her, but I understand why President Obama did.”
Sotomayor was not present Tuesday — she went through four days of questioning two weeks ago — and she was opposed by the other six Republicans on the panel: Sessions, John CornynJohn CornynSenate poised to override Obama veto Senate to vote on 9/11 veto override Wednesday This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress MORE (Texas), Tom CoburnTom CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him MORE (Okla.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Trail 2016: Fight night Clinton, Trump tied in Iowa, Grassley leads in Senate race Senate rivals gear up for debates MORE (Iowa) and Orrin HatchOrrin HatchInternet companies dominate tech lobbying Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Overnight Tech: GOP says internet fight isn't over | EU chief defends Apple tax ruling | Feds roll out self-driving car guidelines | Netflix's China worries MORE (Utah).
The Republicans repeated their party’s oft-stated criticism that Sotomayor has a demonstrated activist bent that will continue if she reaches the high court. The GOP senators also repeatedly expressed frustration with the nominee’s “evasions” during her four days of hearings.
“Her speeches and articles described a troubling approach to judging that her hearing testimony did not resolve,” said Hatch, a former committee chairman. “In the end, Judge Sotomayor’s record regarding her approach to judging simply left too many unresolved controversies and too many conflicts with fundamental principles about the judiciary.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Dem senator won't back spending bill without visa reforms Top GOP chairmen investigating foreign visa program MORE (D-Vt.) took the lead in defending Sotomayor, saying, “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.”
As a replacement for retiring Justice David Souter, whose rulings were widely viewed as left-leaning, Sotomayor is not expected to significantly alter the court’s philosophical balance.
One surprising bit of criticism on Tuesday came from Wisconsin’s two Democratic senators, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, who condemned the lack of forthrightness in recent Supreme Court nomination hearings. Since the watershed hearings of Robert Bork in 1987 and Clarence Thomas in 1991, nominees are now coached to such an extent by presidential administrations that candor has suffered, Kohl and Feingold asserted.
“These hearings have become little more than theater, where senators try to ask clever questions and nominees try to come up with cleverer ways to respond without answering,” Feingold said.
GOP stances on Sotomayor
Republicans who say they will vote yes (5)
Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSwing-state Republicans play up efforts for gun control laws Reid knocks GOP on gun 'terror loophole' after attacks GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Maine)
Lindsey Graham (S.C.)
Richard Lugar (Ind.)
Mel Martinez (Fla.)
Olympia Snowe (Maine)
Republicans who say they will vote no (20)
Bob Bennett (Utah)
Sam Brownback (Kan.)
Jim Bunning (Ky.)
Tom Coburn (Okla.)
Thad CochranThad CochranMomentum builds for Clyburn poverty plan 'Hardball' Pentagon memo creates firestorm Insiders dominate year of the outsider MORE (Miss.)
John Cornyn (Texas)
Mike CrapoMike CrapoLawmakers play catch-up as smartphone banking surges Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit MORE (Idaho)
Chuck Grassley (Iowa)
Orrin Hatch (Utah)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas)
James InhofeJames InhofeShutdown risk grows over Flint Dem slams House waterways bill over splash parks provision Democrats blast GOP for ‘sabotaging’ House waterways bill MORE (Okla.)
Jon Kyl (Ariz.)
Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellShutdown risk grows over Flint Senate poised to override Obama veto Overnight Finance: Four days left to avert shutdown | Conservative group bucks spending bill | Lawmakers play catch-up on smartphone banking MORE (Ky.)
Jim RischJim RischGOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Research: Infrastructure systems easy to hack, a little slow to patch Republicans root for Pence as VP MORE (Idaho)
Pat RobertsPat RobertsSenate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Congress set for Saudi showdown with Obama GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Ky.)
Jeff Sessions (Ala.)
Richard Shelby (Ala.)
John ThuneJohn ThuneOvernight Tech: Tech pushes for debate spotlight | Disney may bid for Twitter | Dem seeks Yahoo probe Google backs Obama's internet transition plan Week ahead in tech: Key test for FCC's TV-box plan MORE (S.D.)
David VitterDavid VitterGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Louisiana needs Caroline Fayard as its new senator Louisiana Republicans: This isn’t like Sandy MORE (La.)
Roger WickerRoger WickerGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Senate GOP pressures Dems for deal on internet fight MORE (Miss.)
Undecided/Have not publicly announced (15)
Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderOvernight Regulation: Lawsuits pile up against Obama overtime rule The American people are restive, discouraged and sometimes suicidal GOP chairman eyes lame-duck for passing medical cures bill MORE (Tenn.)
John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Tribes open new front in fight over pipelines Pipeline delay stirs anger, but not yet action, on Capitol Hill MORE (Wyo.)
Kit Bond (Mo.)*
Richard BurrRichard BurrThe Trail 2016: Fight night Poll finds races for president, Senate tight in North Carolina Senate rivals gear up for debates MORE (N.C.)
Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (Ga.)
Bob CorkerBob CorkerSenate poised to override Obama veto US general calls out Pakistan on support for Afghan militants This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress MORE (Tenn.)
Jim DeMint (S.C.)
John Ensign (Nev.)
Mike EnziMike EnziOvernight Energy: Obama integrates climate change into national security planning Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Wyo.)
Judd Gregg (N.H.)
Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGrassley pulling away from Dem challenger Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Ga.)
Mike JohannsMike JohannsTo buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops Revisiting insurance regulatory reform in a post-crisis world MORE (Neb.)
John McCain (Ariz.)
Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Obama integrates climate change into national security planning GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Overnight Energy: Lawmakers kick off energy bill talks MORE (Alaska)
George Voinovich (Ohio)
* Bond says he will “probably” vote yes
This article was updated on July 29 at 12:35 p.m.