By Alexander Bolton - 07/29/09 01:26 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Senate Republicans for being out of step with the country and conceded Wednesday that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor would win fewer votes than Chief Justice John Roberts.
“It appears today we’re going to get a handful of Republicans,” Reid told reporters during a press conference with the leaders of civil rights groups. “I hope that my prediction is wrong. I hope we get half the Republicans. It would be great to get 20 Republicans.
So far only five Republicans have pledged to support the nominee: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Richard Lugar (Ind.), Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).
Reid noted that Roberts won the support of about half of the Democratic Conference in 2005.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, predicted earlier this month that “there's a very good chance she's going to get as many, if not more, votes than Judge Roberts got, which was 78."
But those high hopes have come back down to Earth. Sotomayor, who would become the first Hispanic member of the high court, failed even to win the support of the two Republican senators from Texas, Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Both lawmakers said they would oppose her despite representing a state that is 32 percent Hispanic.
Senate insiders think the opposition of the National Rifle Association (NRA) may have swayed some Republicans against Sotomayor. The gun rights group sent a letter to Senate leaders last week announcing their opposition and pledging to factor her confirmation vote in future candidate evaluations.
Reid, despite facing a difficult reelection in a state where gun rights are popular, said the NRA’s action “doesn’t persuade me.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who appeared alongside Reid, said the NRA’s opposition was “totally out of line.”
“I have a pistol range behind my house,” Leahy told reporters. “At some point you have to stand up for what is right.
“I would hope all senators would make up their minds based on what they saw and heard [during committee hearings] and not on what any pressure group on either the right or the left comes up with.”