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The Yays Have It: Sotomayor's Nomination Goes Before the Full Senate

By Kevin Fayle on July 28, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
In a vote that stuck to the script laid out by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee over the past few weeks, the Committee split along party lines in recommending Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the United States Supreme Court.  The vote was 13-6, with Lindsey Graham (R-SC) the only Republican voting to support Sotomayor's nomination.

The vote, like the hearings themselves, was notable only because of how boring and repetitive it was.  Members of the GOP reiterated their "two Sonias" refrain and repeatedly expressed their concerns that Sotomayor would be a "judicial activist" on the bench.  The Democratic majority stressed Sotomayor's background and achievements, and reiterated again and again that the judge is a judicial moderate with a strong respect for stare decisis.  

They were the same lines - delivered in the same manner - as the hearings, and meant equally as little here as they did during the proceedings two weeks ago.

The two exceptions were remarks by Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). 
Whitehouse's statement resonated with me because it made a point I've been raising ever since the hearings began: the GOP assails Sotomayor for being a judicial activist, when it's really her (perceived) political leanings that they oppose.  

The conservative movement has been pushing for conservative activists on the bench since the Reagan years, and the originalists and social conservatives who set judicial policy for the larger conservative movement won't approve of a judge who isn't willing to overturn stare decisis to further conservative ideology.  Thus, it isn't judicial activists that the Republicans fear, it's judicial activists who don't share their point of view.

Whitehouse pointed out this hypocrisy, which I felt was important since the Republicans on the Committee have been criticizing Sotomayor during the entire process for being two-faced and deceptive while spouting their own duplicitous rhetoric concerning judicial activism.

Which pretty much makes the Republicans on the Committee hypocrites twice over.

The Democrats on the Committee deserve no softer words, however.  Sotomayor's answers, while politically expedient, weren't clear on very important issues.  The Democrats should have pressed her on many responses in order to elicit guarantees that she wouldn't become a reverse-Souter and side with the conservative wing of the Court.

Instead they discussed Perry Mason and the MLB All-Star Game.

Which makes Sen. Specter's words even more interesting and important.  After making a few somewhat uncomfortable remarks about Sotomayor's support of women and her "ethnic pride", Specter called for changes to the way in which the hearings are conducted.  

Specter's annoyance at the vague, general responses offered by Sotomayor during the hearings was plainly apparent during the entire length of the proceedings, and he was perhaps the only Democrat who really pressed the nominee on her positions.

Specter placed the blame for the lack of any meaningful dialogue during the hearings squarely on the "murder boards" used by the White House to prepare nominees to the Supreme Court.  He didn't offer any specifics on how to change the process, but I think his words summed up the feelings of everyone who suffered through the dry and soporific hearings.

Perhaps it's really just a complaint about the partisanship and rancor that bubbles under the surface of the current Congress, but it seems like everyone is too afraid to make any statement that might reveal a chink in the armor to the other side.  As a result, nothing of substance ever emerges, and taxpayer time and money is wasted on hearings that signify nothing, without even any sound and the fury to make things interesting.

I say we need more Anita Hills.  Even if it didn't affect the end result at all, at least her testimony made for better television.

See Also:
Judiciary Committee OKs Sotomayor for high court (AP)
Senate Panel Endorses Sotomayor in 13-6 vote (NYTimes)
Breaking: Senate Judiciary Committee Votes Yay on Sotomayor (WSJ Law Blog)
Breaking: Sotomayor Approved By Senate Judiciary Committee (Above the Law)

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