Cornyn signals GOP to be careful on Sotomayor

Senate Judiciary member John Cornyn (R-Texas) indicated Sunday that Republicans will be careful in their questioning of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor when her confirmation hearings begin on Monday for fear of alienating Hispanic voters.

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Cornyn, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said Republicans will not filibuster Sotomayor, who would be the Supreme Court's first Latina justice. He noted that’s a different approach than the one taken by Democrats, who did filibuster Miguel Estrada’s nomination when President George W. Bush named him to the U.S Court of Appeals in 2001.

A third of Cornyn’s constituency is Hispanic, Cornyn said, and they expect him to give Sotomayor a fair hearing.

“We're not going to filibuster Judge Sotomayor,” Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court Justice, said. “I think she'll be given an up-or-down vote.”

Filibustering Sotomayor would be difficult in any event. Democrats hold a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate is all of their members are in attendance, and the GOP has not been able to seriously knock Obama’s first court pick.

Cornyn said he and Republicans will focus their questioning on Sotomayor's judicial philosophy and whether she applies the law objectively. Cornyn highlighted previous remarks made by Sotomayor that have led him to believe Sotomayor may allow her ethnicity to influence her rulings, an argument that has been refuted by Democrats and Sotomayor supporters.

"You have to call balls and strikes as a judge," Cornyn said, adding that he will question whether Sotomayor has an "ethnicity focus."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said she expects Sotomayor to be confirmed.

“I never say how I'm going to vote before a hearing,” she said, turning toward Cornyn. “But, John, I find her amazing.”