Conservative Hypocrisy on Judge Sonia Sotomayor
By Bernie Horn
May 26, 2009 - 12:22pm ET
President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court has sparked a firestorm of denunciation from the right-wing noise machine. But it will take a truckload of hypocrisy for Republican Senators to even begin to block her nomination.
Sonia Sotomayor is exactly the kind of person that any thinking American would want on the Supreme Court. She is superbly experienced, serving as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit—one of the most respected courts in America—for the past decade. She also served as a federal trial court judge, presiding over about 450 cases. Sotomayor will bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years!
Sotomayor has a compelling life story: Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Through hard work and perseverance, she went on to graduate from Princeton summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and Yale Law School, serving as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
From a political point of view, Sotomayor has extraordinary bipartisan credentials. She was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush. When she was confirmed by the Senate for the appeals court post in 1998, she was supported by 25 Republicans, including seven who remain in the Senate today: Richard Lugar (IN), Susan Collins (ME), Olympia Snowe (ME), Thad Cochran (MS), Judd Gregg (NH), Robert Bennett (UT), and Orrin Hatch (UT).
Nevertheless, conservatives are already attacking Sotomayor as “too liberal,” too much a “judicial activist,” and not “intellectual” enough. Just wait until they get their marching orders from the ideologues and sharpen the right-wing message!
The bottom line is that Sotomayor will be confirmed by the Senate and the only question is—just how hypocritical will Republicans be? Just four years ago, Senate Republicans were up in arms over the possibility that Democrats might filibuster against the most extreme of President Bush’s judicial nominees. In 2005, conservatives threatened to invoke the “nuclear option,” a parliamentary maneuver in the Senate which would override a filibuster and confirm judicial nominees on a straight majority vote.
At that time, most of the Republicans now in the Senate said that it was wrong, or even unconstitutional, to filibuster a judicial appointment. Our friends at Media Matters have set up a webpage that provides all the relevant quotes. For example:
Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY):
I support a change in the rules of the Senate to allow for an up-or-down vote on judicial nominations. We must not let the minority party circumvent the Constitution, and take away the right of the President to have his judicial nominees voted on by a simple up-or-down vote.
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS):
There should be no question in anyone's mind about my intentions. I will work in concert with our leader, and with the distinguished Majority Whip, Mr. McConnell, to end filibusters of judicial nominations in the Senate.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX):
I believe, about the process of reestablishing the precedent of majority rule that had prevailed for 214 years in the Senate, that would say any President's nominees, whether they be Republican or Democrat, if they have the support of a majority of the Senate, will get an up-or-down vote in the Senate.
John Ensign (R-NV):
We must put an end to this mockery of our system before it becomes impossible to undo the damage. I am sure a lot of Americans believe this is politics as usual. It is not. Filibustering of judicial nominations is an unprecedented intrusion into the longstanding practice of the Senate's approval of judges.
Judd Gregg (R-NH):
There never was a filibuster of a majority-supported judicial nominee until a couple of years ago... It is inconsistent with the Constitution and with the Framers' intent as documented in the Federalist Papers and the notes of James Madison.
Orrin Hatch (R-UT):
All we are asking is the 214-year tradition of the Senate that judicial nominees not be filibustered be followed. That has been the tradition of the Senate up until President Bush became President. All we are asking is that every one of these qualified nominees who have reached the floor receive an up-or-down vote. That is all we are asking.
Many, many more similar quotes are available at the Media Matters website.
So there’s not going to be a filibuster of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, right? Don’t hold your breath!
The writer is a Senior Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future and author of the recent book, "Framing the Future: How Progressive Values Can Win Elections and Influence People."
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future