Tag Archives: Senate Judiciary Committee

Will Sotomayor Choreography Change Outcome?

For the record, there are 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They’re the ones holding hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the US Supreme Court.

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The Republicans know going in that, absent some bombshell revelation, she’ll be confirmed. That means the hearings, which will likely last the rest of the week, are about the pageantry and stage managing the Beltway is famous for.

Republicans own no franchise here. It wasn’t that long ago (was it?) that Democrats played about the same role when Samuel Alito was confirmed.

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For the 19 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the televised hearings represent a chance  to show their rhetorical chops to the folks back home. Take my word for the fact that none will mentioned that all but two of them are white men. Regardless, each will play their role.

Chief among the antagonists is Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He’s been honing his act for the past several weeks, most recently on “Meet the Press”. Problem is, his blathering about justices not having empathy based on their life experience flies in the face of what Justice Alito himself has said on more than one occasion. Someone is sure to b ring up the fact that of five cases Judge Sotomayor ruled on that went to the Supreme Court, three were reversed.

Again, the Republicans will be forced to look at Alito’s record, which shows both cases he ruled on that went to the High Court were reversed . We already know the lead plaintiff in the infamous New Haven firefighters case will testify for the GOP. Former Yankee pitcher David Cone is set to testify as well. And all this for an outcome that, barring an earth shattering development, is pre-ordained.

Say what you will about President Barack Obama. In picking Sonia Sotomayor he got it right. The Republicans know it. So do the Democrats. The hearings are merely a formality. So that brings up the question of what Judge Sotomayor’s appointment to the court actually means. If people think it will change its fundamentally conservative nature, they’re in for a disappointment. The nucleus of Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Kennedy remains intact. Of this quintet, only Kennedy is an occasional wild card.

So what do the Republicans really fear? Is it the nominee herself, or is it her potential powers of persuasion? Sonia Sotomayor is no doctrinaire progressive. Her seven minute speech Monday was designed not to grate. “The task of a judge is not to make law. It is to apply the law”, says the nominee. Maybe so. Yet we all know the application of law changes over time. Otherwise, we’d still be living under Plessy vs. Ferguson, wouldn’t we? We ought to remember that the decision that found separate but equal to be constitutional was 7-1.

Anyway, that’s another argument for another day. The question as these hearings move forward is this. Can the Republicans stop Sonia Sotomayor? Should they even try?

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Hurry Up and Wait on Sotomayor?

There are times when our elected officials act like little more than sullen, spoiled children (witness what’s happening in the New York State Legislature, but that’s another post). Now that Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy has announced a July 13th start date for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, Republicans are crying foul. “Not enough time”, they bleat. Senator Jeff Sessions argues “It’s far more important we do this right then we do it quick”.

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In other words, there isn’t enough time for the GOP to play “Gotcha” with this nominee. They know they don’t  have the votes to stop her confirmation, so now they grasp at straws. When confronted by the fact that Leahy’s timeline is remarkably similar to that of Chief Justice John Roberts when he was confirmed, they counter that she’s ruled on ten times more decisions than he , hence the need for more time.

And of course, the flaw in the Republican argument. If experience on the bench is an important qualifier for the nation’s highest court (and we’ve heard the GOP trot this out many times in the past), Judge Sotomayor would make the grade just by the number of decisions she’s rendered. Still, the Republicans argue that under the July 13th timeline announced by Leahy, they’d have to review 76 cases per day to be prepared for her confirmation hearing.

Well, if Senate familiarity on national security briefings is any indication, Most of them won’t be doing the heavy lifting themselves anyway. That’s why they have paid staffs, and trust me, they don’t skimp on them. No, the GOP wants time because they want to find something, anything that would torpedo Sotomayor’s nomination. To be fair, this isn’t new, nor is it the sole province of Senate Republicans. But they ought to be honest and say that’s what they’re doing.

If they were totally frank, they’d say they need more time not  not to study Sonia Sotomayor’s record but to figure out how to make themselves look good to moderate and independent voters during the televised confirmation hearings. Seen from that vantage point, the political stakes are high, high enough to make a big stink about the timing of the process. Make no mistake. If the Republicans still controlled the Senate, those hearings wouldn’t start until after Labor Day, and no power on earth would make them move faster.

All this attention around Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation is a good thing. Americans ought to have something substantial to focus on besides “Jon and Kate, Plus 8” (lol).

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The Supreme Court  has a tremendous impact on the way we live our lives. The Senate should look at her record. Barring any surprises, it shouldn’t be found wanting.

What do you think. Is July 13th too early for Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings to begin?

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Will Repubs Go After Sotomayor?

First, before I get started, from by blog post, “Who will POTUS pick for SCOTUS?” on May 4th comes this.

“Based on what I know about her, and the politics of the moment, I’m going with Sonia Sotomayor”

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Hah!!! Don’t want to say I told you so, but this time I got it right. Sonia Sotomayor is the right choice for this court vacancy for a whole bunch of reasons. She has, you see, the legal background and life experience to make ann outstanding Supreme Court Justice. Sure, the Mitt Romneys of the world will call her nomination “troubling”. Fortunately for the nation, he’s not president.

Yet the short answer to the question at the top of this post is, “not as hard as you might think”. Republican elected officials, unlike those who carry their water in the media, realize what extraordinary damage the immigration issue did to their party among Latinos. To rake Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina nominated to the highest court in the land, over the coals would doom the GOP among Latinos for years to come.

No, they’ll leave the heavy lifting to their shadow government on talk radio and cable television. Let’s see now, who have we got here? Rush Limbaugh. Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and don’t forget Lou Dobbs and Joe Scarborough, although they’re not as reliable as the first group. These will be the warriors the Republicans will use while members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on camera mind you, tell her how inspiring her life story is.

What shouldn’t be missed is this. Sonia Sotomayor is not a story without substance. Her nomination shouldn’t simply be seen as the first Latina and the third woman in the history of the court. She brings serious chops to the job. She’s been on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for more than a decade. You don’t get that far being a lightweight.

As I said in the May 4th post, all of those being considered for this job had serious qualifications. We should have expected nothing less from a president who used to be a law professor. What will be interesting going forward is the measure of bipartisan support her nomination receives. If Samuel Alito can be confirmed by a vote of 58-42, Sonia Sotomayor should pass muster no problem.

Unless, of course, you think the conservative echo chamber can kill a Supreme Court nomination single handed. Are they dumb and egocentric enough to think they can?

You tell me.

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