In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It seems like just a few weeks ago, we wouldn't have expected this sort of reaction to the Sotomayor news from Sen. Arlen Specter.

I applaud the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court. While her record suggests excellent educational and professional qualifications, now it is up to the Senate to discharge its constitutional duty for a full and fair confirmation process.


Just imagine if Specter was still the Republican ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, fending off attacks from his right! Now he's a Democrat, though, and crawling slowly to the left. So his support for Sotomayor isn't all that surprising.

If the Sotomayor confirmation process turns into a bruising fight, expect to hear a lot of this sort of framing, from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Sotomayor, he says, "is a moderate who was selected for the District Court by the first President Bush and was confirmed with Republican votes."

Unlike the last President Bush, who solely sought nominees from the extreme right for the High Court, President Obama has not reached to the far left end of the spectrum to fill this vacancy.


It's a fair point, but as a rhetorical weapon, it's also something of a double edged sword. If Sotomayor squeaks by with the help of Democrats insisting of the importance of her moderate record, it could make it difficult for Obama to appoint anybody to her left, in the event of another vacancy on the court down the line. Full Schumer statement below the fold.

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"I will work closely with Senator Sessions as the Judiciary Committee prepares for confirmation hearings," says Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy about the Sotomayor nomination. "We are committed to ensuring that the next Justice is seated before the Court's term begins in October. I hope all Senators will treat this nominee fairly and will respect the Committee's confirmation process."

That's the ultimate question, right. Fortunately for Leahy, Sessions, and several other Republicans have a long record of opposing obstruction of judicial nominees, and Supreme Court nominees in particular. Unfortunately for Leahy, those sorts of records tend not to matter at all. Full Leahy statement below the fold.

For what it's worth, Sessions voted against her confirmation to the appeals court in 1998, but the question for now is whether the Republicans will filibuster her nomination, and whether Sessions will participate.

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RNC Chairman Michael Steele has put out this rather cautious-sounding statement on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court:

"Republicans look forward to learning more about federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor's thoughts on the importance of the Supreme Court's fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law. Supreme Court vacancies are rare, which makes Sonia Sotomayor's nomination a perfect opportunity for America to have a thoughtful discussion about the role of the Supreme Court in our daily lives. Republicans will reserve judgment on Sonia Sotomayor until there has been a thorough and thoughtful examination of her legal views."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has released this statement on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court:

"Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly. But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.

"Our Democratic colleagues have often remarked that the Senate is not a 'rubber stamp.' Accordingly, we trust they will ensure there is adequate time to prepare for this nomination, and a full and fair opportunity to question the nominee and debate her qualifications."

The Sotomayor pick promises to split liberal and conservative interest groups right down the middle. Here's Michael B. Keegan, President of People for the American Way, on the nomination:

President Obama has made a superb choice. Judge Sotomayor has one of the sharpest intellects on the federal bench. She's shown that she'll bring an open mind to the Court and rule on each case according to its particular merits. Her nomination is a very positive step towards bringing diversity to our highest Court.

President Obama used this opportunity to do exactly what he promised in last year's election - to select a person who has demonstrated an abiding commitment to core constitutional values of justice, opportunity, and equality under the law. He has named someone who understands the impact that the law has on the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.

This nomination is good news for people who care about the future of our rights and liberties. Now it's up to our Senators to avoid the distraction of attacks from the far right and work for a smooth, fair confirmation process. We urge them to confirm Judge Sotomayor with all deliberate speed.

By nominating Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court, President Obama is not just making a bid for history. He's also bucking the will of several anonymous lawyers and law clerks who tried to run her off the road after it became clear that she was on his short list.

The anatomy of the Sotomayor whisper campaign is pretty straightforward. Once it was obvious that she was a serious contender, an unknown number of Second Circuit prosecutors and former clerks banded together and approached The New Republic's legal correspondent Jeffrey Rosen with attacks on the prospective nominee's fitness.

The sources told Rosen, among other things, that Sotomayor lacked the intellectual heft and good manners to serve on the court, and, in an article billed as the first in a series analyses of potential nominees, Rosen went with it.

From there, the attacks went viral.

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The National Republican Senatorial Committee is right out the gate with this comment on the Sotomayor nomination, with this post on Twitter:

So, President Obama picks liberal Sonia Sotomayor for SCOTUS......more to come.


Let the fun begin!

The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor isn't even official yet, and already, conservatives are revving up their attack engines.

But the White House is prepared. And, interestingly, they're doubling down on the descriptions of Sotomayor's career and character that conservatives object to the most. "Sonia Sotomayor...brings not only brilliance in the law but a common sense understanding of how the law practically works."

According to the memo, "Judge Sotomayor is widely admired as a judge with a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine and a keen awareness of the law's impact on everyday life."

The language is reminiscent of the speech Obama gave after the news of Justice David Souter's retirement broke, when he declared that he wanted an empathic nominee, with an understanding of how the law effects regular people. Almost immediately conservatives went on a politically questionable attack against 'empathy' as a proxy for their usual argument that judges should not be "activists."

The full memo appears below the fold.

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Going into the Sotomayor confirmation process, it's worth looking back at the last time she faced a Senate confirmation vote, as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998. The following Republican Senators voted to confirm her at the time, and are also still around today:

Bennett (Utah)
Cochran
Collins
Gregg
Hatch
Lugar
Snowe
Specter (has since switched to the Democrats)


The following Republicans voted against her, and are still in the Senate today:

Brownback
Enzi
Grassley
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
McCain
McConnell
Roberts
Sessions
Shelby


No Democrats voted against her confirmation at the time. Also, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) missed the vote.

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