Sonia Sotomayor: ‘Her extraordinary journey’

President Obama on Tuesday tapped federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court, presenting her as a groundbreaking choice for the nation’s highest judicial body.

The White House rollout, with its emphasis on Sotomayor’s personal journey and historic selection, will make it difficult for Republicans to oppose her.


Obama, who stressed his own life’s story during his campaign, said of his pick: “But as impressive and meaningful as Judge Sotomayor’s sterling credentials in the law is her own extraordinary journey.” He went on to discuss her childhood in the Bronx, the death of her father when she was 9 years old and how she went on to earn Ivy League degrees at Princeton and Yale.

Republicans signaled they were unwilling to immediately criticize or praise Sotomayor, instead promising to reserve judgment until they review her record. The party is also aware its response will affect efforts to woo Hispanic voters to the GOP.

“We will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (Ky.). “Our Democratic colleagues have often remarked that the Senate is not a ‘rubber stamp.’ Accordingly, we trust they will ensure there is adequate time to prepare for this nomination, and a full and fair opportunity to question the nominee and debate her qualifications.”

Republicans indicated that one issue they will bring up in confirmation hearings is whether Sotomayor is too willing to rule in favor of minorities.

Obama made his selection on a day when lawmakers were back in their districts for Memorial Day recess, so Sotomayor will make her Capitol Hill debut next week. Obama said he would like his pick confirmed before Congress leaves for a monthlong break in August. Justice David Souter, whom Sotomayor is replacing, said he will step down at the end of the court’s term in June.

Barring any complications, she is expected to be confirmed by the Democratic-held Senate. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday there is “ample time” for the Senate to vet and vote on her before August.

The nation’s first African-American president had been under pressure to pick a woman to join Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s lone female.

Sotomayor’s selection won wide praise from Hispanic groups and members of Congress, many of whom said they were personally moved by the announcement. At least one — Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) — reportedly cried during an interview after Sotomayor was picked.

“You feel almost validated,” said Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds| Trump administration aims to buy uranium for reserve 'as soon as possible,' official says| 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fue 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards OVERNIGHT ENERGY: States, green groups sue Trump over rollback of Obama fuel efficiency regulations | Oil lobby says low prices still hurting industry | Conservative group wants Trump to go further in rolling back key environmental law MORE (D-Calif.). “You know, like I really do matter. I really do count.”

“This is incredibly important,” said Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas). “Other than the presidency itself, I would rank this second.”


Obama met with four female finalists for the nomination, according to senior White House officials.

The president narrowed the field from an initial list of about 40 and met with Sotomayor, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week. By Friday, the president had made his decision, though he told advisers he wanted to think about it over the weekend.

On Monday night, Obama called Sotomayor to offer her the post, choosing the one finalist with whom he had virtually no previous relationship.

Liberal-leaning groups joined in praising Sotomayor, signaling that they will point to her ample judicial experience and temperament in the forthcoming battle over her nomination.

“We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure this nomination goes through,” said Marge Baker, vice president of People for the American Way, one of the liberal groups that will lead the charge to confirm Sotomayor.

Baker declined to enumerate what steps those groups — which have already begun coordinating — will take. But the National Organization for Women said Tuesday it would launch a “Confirm Her” campaign on Sotomayor’s behalf.

For all the praise Sotomayor won from left-leaning groups, conservative organizations were just as fast to take their own shots.

“I didn’t think he would appoint someone as radical and easy to attack as Sotomayor,” said Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice. “[Obama] boxed himself in a demographic corner ... It had to be a woman and it had to be a Hispanic. This pick is no intellectual heavyweight, and that’s what most people expected.”


“This is a very aggressive decision that will trigger a national debate on the issue of judicial activism,” added Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law & Justice. “This nomination raises serious questions about the issue of legislating from the bench.”

The White House has worked hard to blunt any Republican accusations that the GOP has not been included in the selection process. Obama personally spoke with every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. On Tuesday, before the announcement, Obama spoke with Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidCortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Nevada congressman admits to affair after relationship divulged on podcast Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil MORE (D-Nev.); Reid’s GOP counterpart, McConnell; and the two top senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  MORE (D-Vt.) and ranking member Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Memo: Trump tweets cross into new territory Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (R-Ala.).

Vice President Biden, who as a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee has been intimately involved in the selection process, also spent Tuesday making calls to senators.

Sotomayor’s confirmation effort will be led by Cynthia Hogan, Biden’s chief counsel, while communications strategy will be headed by longtime Democratic message maven Stephanie Cutter.

No senior statesman has yet been chosen to shepherd her through the Senate, though senior White House officials say they see Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment MORE (D-N.Y.) becoming heavily involved on Sotomayor’s behalf.

Though Republicans have said they want time between the nominations and Sotomayor’s hearings, the White House declined to say if it was setting up any sort of war room.

“We’re not anticipating a war,” said one senior administration official.

Jared Allen, Alexander Bolton and Michael M. Gleeson contributed to this article.