President Barack Obama's pick to fill his first U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Sonia Sotomayor, goes before a Senate hearing today. Most people believe she already has enough votes to win the confirmation. If selected, Sotomayor will be the first Latino justice on Supreme Court. Senator Patrick Leahy said, "Hers is a success story that all Americans can take pride in."
However, the hearings will be interesting to watch. What I will be watching for is the Republicans' approach to the hearings. The sharpest comments about her so far came Sunday from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama, the senior Republican on the committee. Jeff Sessions, by the way, was nominated for Federal Judgeship in 1986 but was refused. Why? Due to his "gross insensitivity" on racial issues. Some of Session's comments: 1) said KKK was not so bad until he found out some of them smoked marijuana. 2) Said NAACP & ACLU were "un-American" and "Communist-inspired" because they "forced civil rights down the throats of people." Later, Sessions said he made these comments "in jest."
I will be LIVE BLOGGING the hearings today and periodically throughout the week(s) of the hearing. I will be updating this blog throughout the day.
Capitol Hill - Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings:
10:00 am Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) Chairman of the Panel welcomes Sonia Sotomayor. Invites Sotomayor to introduce her family. Leahy provides introductory remarks and cites Sotomayor's many significant accomplishments (education, community, as a Prosecutor and Judge).
10:15 am Sen Jeff Sessions (R) critiques Soniamayor. He cites her "Wise Latina" comments and the Firefighter case, entering them into the record. Sessions reveals himself when he said: "Empathy for one is prejudice against another." (A clue into Republicans' desire to end Affirmative Action)
Then goes into Gun Control and Pharmaceuticals. Asks American People to follow the hearings.
(We can see what we can expect from Sessions. Pundits are saying Sessions came out early and hit her with both barrels -- what we can expect to see from the Republicans who bash her.)
10:30 am Sen Orrin Hatch (R) discusses method for hearings. References then Sen. Obama's critique of nominee Brown, Justices Alito and Roberts.
Sessions said "extreme left" bashed a plaintiff from a previous Sotomayor case and will that plaintiff "Frank Ricci" will be speaking at the hearings as a Republican witness. Sessions said this was wrong. (I will be posting a blog about this case so you will be aware of this issue before Thursday's hearings.)
Hatch closed with positive comments about Sotomayor.
(during break, someone made some type of outburst and they were escorted out of the room - no outbursts allowed -- Male: "What About the Unborn.")
10:40 am Dianne Feinstein (D) Sotomayor a warm and intelligent woman. Strengthen Supreme Court.
10:47 am Senator Charles Grassley (R) Abide the law and the Constitution, not judging based on empathy.
11:00 am Russ Feingold (D) Sotomayor - wisdom, judgement, understanding of impact; deeper appreciation of democracy. Be wary of judicial activism words being said at the hearings. Glad Sotomayor will be able to answer unsubstantiated comments bias. Sotomayor is cautious and careful approach to judging. Out of context words in a speech do not apply to her fine record. Impartial justice - Fine Qualities - living proof this country is moving in the right direction. Judge's nomination example -American Dream. She will serve with distinction.
11:07 am Sen Jon Kyl (R) Serve on merits, not ethnicity. "Wise Latina Woman" remarks. Biases, prejudices. Can you control it. Judge the case fairly. Critiques Obama - oppose Roberts. Judges should not be empathetic (no heart).
11:16 am Sen Chuck Schumer (D) Record shows she is in mainstream. Strongly supports Rule of Law. Sotomayor delves thoroughly into the facts of each case. I challenge every Republican to examine random samplings. She learns facts and comes to a decision irrespective of personal experience. She supports rule of law and the constitution.
11:22 am Sen Lindsey Graham (R) Unless you have a complete meltdown, you will be confirmed and I don't think you will have a meltdown. Your courtcases are fine. But when it comes to speeches, if I said anything like that, my career would be over. You need to understand that. You are not racist. When you take the robes off and say the words "better" that is a problem. If I applied then Sen. Obama's standards, you couldn't stand up. You are a strong advocate and you will speak your mind. You have good character and have had a full and fruitful life. You are passionate. You stood out and we want you to speak your mind.
11:33 am Sen Cardin (D)
12:05 pm Sen John Cornyn (R) More focus on "Wise Latina" comment. Are you the kinda judge that veers from the Constitution. (yada yada - bloviating)
12:10 pm Sen. Whitehouse (D) Proud to be here with you today. Great attributes. Appreciate your years as prosecutor. Looking forward to hearing more. Republican words used are code words seeking particular judge with particular set of outcomes.
12:20 pm Sen Tom Coburn (R) Concerned with some of your statements. Rule of law binds us together. We want it to be predictable in fairness. Worried Constitution to be seen evolving. Your oath - follow Constitition and our laws and not be swayed by personal biases or your political preferences. Applaud your accomplishments.
12:30 pm Sen Richard Durbin (D) Wisdom comes from life not just lawbooks. Roberts said he calls balls and strikes, but hard to call fair balls and strikes when you are out in right field. Sotomayor has many outstanding accomplishments. Hard Work. Dedication.
(another outburst by some guy in a red shirt)
2:00 pm (D) Senator from MN - Kudos to Sotomayor
2:12 pm Sen Kaufman (D) Impressive Nominee. Incredible experience. Great Record. No biases.
2:19 pm Sen Arlen Specter (D) Cases
2:30 pm Sen Franken (D) Welcome. Most experienced nominee in 100 years. Outstanding jurist. Exceptional individual.
(another protester removed)
What happens Rest of Week:
. Monday close: Sotomayor given oath by Chairman Leahy and makes remarkable and moving opening statement.
. Tuesday: Hearings resume. Each Senator gets 30 minutes Q&A with Sotomayor.
. Wednesday: Hearings resume. Q&A continues. Expected to last until noon. 2nd round of Q&A begins.
. Thursday: Hearings resume. 2nd round of Q&As continue. Then they hear from outside witnesses.
NOTE: Outside Witnesses
* Democrats have put New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Major League Baseball pitcher David Cone and former FBI Director Louis Freeh along with legal scholars and experts on their witness list.
* The Republican witness list includes conservative author and commentator Linda Chavez, a former president of the National Rifle Association and Frank Ricci, who was a plaintiff in a landmark race bias case in which Sotomayor was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
* After the hearing concludes, committee members are typically given a week to submit written questions. After Sotomayor answers them, the committee will vote whether to recommend her for confirmation by the full Senate.
* Regardless of the recommendation, a Supreme Court nomination traditionally goes to the full Senate for consideration. After at least a few days of debate, the Democratic-led Senate will vote on Sotomayor.
* If confirmed by a majority of the Senate, Sotomayor will likely go straight to the White House to be sworn in, probably by Chief Justice John Roberts. If he is unavailable, another justice will do the honors.
* The court officially starts its new term in October but has scheduled a special session in September to hear a challenge to the federal campaign finance law.