July 28, 2009

Sotomayor: GOP Puts Principle Above Identity Politics

CFJ Executive Director Curt Levey on today’s Judiciary Committee vote on Sonia Sotomayor:

Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee deserve praise for putting principle above identity politics today in voting against Sonia Sotomayor. Recall Sen. Schumer’s warning, on the day Sotomayor was nominated, that Republicans opposing her would do so at their "own peril.” Most observers on the left and right predicted that GOP senators, afraid of alienating Hispanic voters, would mount little opposition to Sotomayor’s confirmation. The naysayers pointed to the fact that only three Republicans voted against confirmation the last time a controversial Democratic Supreme Court nominee, Justice Ginsburg, came before the Senate.

However, the predictions that Republicans would “roll over” were proven wrong at the hearings for Judge Sotomayor. Republicans persistently asked tough questions about her commitment to the Second Amendment, property rights, equal opportunity, and about the many speeches that call into question her belief in judicial impartiality and a colorblind justice system.

The naysayers were proven wrong again by today’s Judiciary Committee vote, in which six of seven Republican members voted no. Many analysts predicted that Sens. Cornyn and Kyl would vote for Sotomayor simply because they come from states with large Hispanic populations. But both senators showed more courage than that.

Others said that Sens. Grassley and Hatch would vote for Sotomayor because they have a long record of giving great deference to the judicial nominees of Democratic presidents. But Grassley and Hatch know that deference doesn’t mean blindness, and they simply could not overlook Sotomayor’s disturbing statements celebrating judicial activism and the role of race in judging. Sotomayor’s assertion that Latina women will generally make better judicial decisions, perhaps because of “inherent physiological or cultural differences” and “basic differences in logic and reasoning", than white males was particularly hard for Committee Republicans to swallow.

Sens. Sessions and Coburn deserve praise as well. If their votes were less in doubt, it’s only because they have so consistently spoken out against the activist judicial philosophy that Sotomayor espoused until her “confirmation conversion” earlier this month.