By Michael O'Brien - 07/19/09 10:32 AM EDT
Leahy took Senate Republicans to task for touching on Sotomayor's membership in organizations providing legal counsel to Hispanics, likening it to past decades when some African-American nominees were attacked for their membership in the NAACP.
The long-serving Vermont Democrat, who's voted on the confirmation of all current members of the Supreme Court, said he hoped "we don't go back" to when some African-American nominees came under fire for their associations with prominent civil rights groups.
Leahy was specifically referencing Republicans' efforts to look into the work Sotomayor had done in her career on behalf of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, an organization which has filed some briefs throughout the years on behalf of abortion rights.
"The same arguments were used against Thurgood Marshall and others," Leahy added. "I think it's wrong."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, took strong exception to that characterization.
"There's nothing wrong with asking what her personal views are regarding positions she took as member of an organization," he said.
Sessions still said, however, that he is still unsure of how he would vote on Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Some Republican leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have said they'd vote against Sotomayor, though some other GOP lawmakers have said they'll support her nomination.
"I was troubled by a number of the things the nominee has said," Sessions said, while maintaining that he hasn't made up his mind.
Sessions also said that Republicans likely wouldn't try to stall a vote on Sotomayor, adding that he expects a vote to confirm her on the Senate floor next Tuesday, July 28.