By Kevin Bogardus - 06/01/09 07:40 AM EDT
Judge Sonia Sotomayor is expected to make her case in person this week
as she visits Capitol Hill for the first time as President Obama’s
Supreme Court nominee.
And despite harsh criticisms from prominent conservative figures, the federal court of appeals judge can expect a fair hearing from the people who will actually vote on her confirmation: sitting U.S. senators.
Perhaps most importantly, none of the Republicans repeated the most explosive charge coming from party figures such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and conservative talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh — that Sotomayor is a racist. Most dispelled that argument outright or declined to comment on it.
In fact, Sotomayor found high praise in an unusual place: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). On "Meet The Press" Sunday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member described her as having an “almost ideal” mix of experience for a Supreme Court nominee, with her resume boasting stints as a prosecutor, private litigator and a trial judge before sitting on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
On her tour of Capitol Hill, Sotomayor can begin trying to soothe worries over her statement that resulted in the racism charges. The judge gave a 2001 speech in which she suggested that a Latina woman would make a better judge than a white man.
That has angered Republicans the most, but those who
appeared on the Sunday talk shows all seemed willing to listen to the
New York judge’s explanations behind the speech.
Scheduled on Sotomayor’s itinerary this week are reportedly visits with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and possibly his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Also included are stops with Sessions and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.
What is the most useful for the nomination process from Sotomayor’s extensive record is not her 17 years on the bench but that she has gone through Senate confirmation twice.
She is also no stranger to judicial politics. Her nomination to the court of appeals was held up by Republicans in 1998 over worries that she would make it to the Supreme Court. Now, more than 10 years later, Sotomayor will begin to make that case in person this week.