It's time to confirm Sotomayor, supporters say

Despite ongoing floor debates in the Senate today, Sonia Sotomayor’s history-making confirmation is almost certain, which would make her the country’s first Latina Supreme Court justice.

Last week, Sotomayor’s nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee, with one Republican joining the panel’s Democrats in sending the nomination to the full Senate on a 13-6 vote.

Six Senate Republicans and most Democrats, who enjoy a 60-seat majority, have said they plan to approve Sotomayor, who is poised to become the first woman of color and third woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sotomayor, 55, will replace retiring Associate Justice David Souter.

Sotomayor has served on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998 and prior to that was a federal district judge in New York. President Barack Obama nominated her to the high court several months ago.

Senate Republicans have been using the floor debates to attack Sotomayor, who they claim is an “activist” judge with a liberal agenda favored by the Obama administration.

Democrats including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, R.I., say rather than celebrating the first Latina justice, they are being forced to fend off Republican attacks. Whitehouse told reporters the Republican criticisms are “strange and strained efforts to impose right-wing political orthodoxy on the courts that protect our individual rights.”

The vociferous campaign against Sotomayor by Senate Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, is carrying little weight however as Democrats continue to defend her solid record.

“Those who struggle to pin the label of judicial activist on Judge Sotomayor are met by her solid record of judging based on the law,” Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters. “She is a restrained, experienced and thoughtful judge who has shown no biases in her rulings.”

Other Democrats have highlighted Sotomayor’s extensive experience as a prosecutor, corporate lawyer and judge. They praised her 17-year record as a federal judge and her made-in-America story as a Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx, N.Y., who rose to success through hard work, academic achievement and personal perseverance.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a son of Cuban immigrants, told reporters that Sotomayor’s confirmation would make a significant impact in the country’s judicial history. “When Judge Sotomayor takes her seat as the Supreme Court, America will have come of age,” he said.

A final Senate vote is expected Thursday and if Sotomayor is confirmed a White House swearing-in ceremony could happen as early as Friday, sources say.

Civil rights groups are hailing Sotomayor’s nomination and say as a jurist she demonstrates a fair and impartial record that represents the ideals of equal opportunities.

They charge that Republican resistance against Sotomayor only demonstrates and reinforces the growing disconnect between Latino voters and the GOP on many issues facing the Latino community.

Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, in an opinion piece in the Huffington Post, said her organization strongly supports the nomination of Sotomayor.

“This week, the Senate will make history – the kind of history that makes our country proud,” she said. “Judge Sotomayor is an extraordinary person, who combines exceptional academic and legal qualifications and an impressive tenure on the bench with an abiding commitment to public service and an inspirational life story.”

Greenberger said Sotomayor demonstrates that the nation could only benefit from the talents and skills of women and people of color at all levels of our judiciary.

“Judge Sotomayor is a remarkably qualified, gifted and inspiring woman who belongs on the Supreme Court. Republican and Democratic senators alike should vote to confirm her resoundingly,” said Greenberger. “The time for this watershed moment in our nation’s history is now.”

plozano @ pww.org