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Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for that kind introduction.

In recent weeks, I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting eighty-nine gracious Senators, including all the members of this Committee. I thank you for the time you have spent with me. Our meetings have given me an illuminating tour of the fifty states and invaluable insights into the American people.

There are countless family members, friends, mentors, colleagues, and clerks who have done so much over the years to make this day possible. I am deeply appreciative for their love and support. I want to make one special note of thanks to my mom. I am here today because of her aspirations and sacrifices for both my brother Juan and me. Mom, I love that we are sharing this together. I am very grateful to the President and humbled to be here today as a nominee to the United States Supreme Court.

The progression of my life has been uniquely American. My parents left Puerto Rico during World War II. I grew up in modest circumstances in a Bronx housing project. My father, a factory worker with a third grade education, passed away when I was nine years old.

On her own, my mother raised my brother and me. She taught us that the key to success in America is a good education. And she set the example, studying alongside my brother and me at our kitchen table so that she could become a registered nurse. We worked hard. I poured myself into my studies at Cardinal Spellman High School, earning scholarships to Princeton University and then Yale Law School, while my brother went to medical school. Our achievements are due to the values that we learned as children, and they have continued to guide my life's endeavors. I try to pass on this legacy by serving as a mentor and friend to my many godchildren and students of all backgrounds.

Over the past three decades, I have seen our judicial system from a number of different perspectives - as a big-city prosecutor, a corporate litigator, a trial judge and an appellate judge. My first job after law school was as an assistant District Attorney in New York. There, I saw children exploited and abused. I felt the suffering of victims' families torn apart by a loved one's needless death. And I learned the tough job law enforcement has protecting the public safety. In my next legal job, I focused on commercial, instead of criminal, matters. I litigated issues on behalf of national and international businesses and advised them on matters ranging from contracts to trademarks.

My career as an advocate ended--and my career as a judge began--when I was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. As a trial judge, I decided over four hundred and fifty cases, and presided over dozens of trials, with perhaps my best known case involving the Major League Baseball strike in 1995.

After six extraordinary years on the district court, I was appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On that Court, I have enjoyed the benefit of sharing ideas and perspectives with wonderful colleagues as we have worked together to resolve the issues before us. I have now served as an appellate judge for over a decade, deciding a wide range of Constitutional, statutory, and other legal questions.

Throughout my seventeen years on the bench, I have witnessed the human consequences of my decisions. Those decisions have been made not to serve the interests of any one litigant, but always to serve the larger interest of impartial justice.

In the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make the law - it is to apply the law. And it is clear, I believe, that my record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms; interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress's intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court. In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand.

The process of judging is enhanced when the arguments and concerns of the parties to the litigation are understood and acknowledged. That is why I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then by explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected. That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system. My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case.

Since President Obama announced my nomination in May, I have received letters from people all over this country. Many tell a unique story of hope in spite of struggles. Each letter has deeply touched me. Each reflects a belief in the dream that led my parents to come to New York all those years ago. It is our Constitution that makes that Dream possible, and I now seek the honor of upholding the Constitution as a Justice on the Supreme Court

I look forward in the next few days to answering your questions, to having the American people learn more about me, and to being part of a process that reflects the greatness of our Constitution and of our nation. Thank you.

At today's White House press briefing, Robert Gibbs told reporters that President Obama would consider asking either or both houses of Congress to delay their recesses if they haven't held a vote on health care reform legislation before their scheduled adjournment dates.

In theory, the President could call Congress into special session, but it's hard to imagine that it'll come to that. This may be the first acknowledgment from the White House that things are further behind schedule than Obama would like. And with Obama set to meet with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)--chairman of the Senate Finance Committee--and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)--chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee--this afternoon, it may be a sign that the administration is stepping up its involvement in the process as the deadline approaches.

The pendulum appears to have swung back in the other direction on the issue of criminal investigations into Bush-era torture. It had looked for a while like President Obama's stated desire to look forward not back had carried the day. But now it appears that Attorney General Eric Holder -- independent of his boss's political concerns, which is how things should work -- is leaning back towards initiating a probe. The news was first reported over the weekend by Newsweek, then picked up today by the New York Times and Washington Post.

But whatever Holder ultimately decides, there are already several ongoing government efforts to investigate torture, which figure to substantially fill out our still patchwork understanding of the issue. So as we wait for official word from the Justice Department on a criminal inquiry, it's worth being clear about what those efforts are, and how they relate to each other.

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The newest member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), noted that it's just his fifth day in office but he understands that this is a "historic confirmation hearing."

"I plan to learn a lot from each of you," Franken told his colleagues, also saying he plans to follow Paul Wellstone's example. Franken was deferential to other senators throughout his opening statement, remarking upon Sen. Ted Kennedy's absence at Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearings for the first time since 1965 and saying, "we miss him."

Of Sotomayor, he said she is an "exceptional individual" who understands "at the end of our task some human being is going to be affected."

"I may not be a lawyer, but neither are the majority of Americans....I believe in judicial restraint [and] I want to hear your views on judicial restraint and activism in the context of important issues like voting rights, open access to the Internet, and campaign finance reform," he said.

As a quick update on this post, House health care leaders will hold an event at 3 pm this afternoon spotlighting health care horror stories as told by the people who lived through them--but they will not unveil legislative language. That appears to be on hold for at least a few more hours as intra-party disagreements are resolved and language is finalized. Moderates and conservatives have been trying to pull the bill to the right--and we'll probably know by tomorrow just how successful they've been.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Judge Sotomayor, welcome to you and your family. Your nomination caps what already has been a remarkable legal career. I join many, many Americans who feel proud to see you here today. It is a great country, and you represent its greatest attributes.

Your record leaves no doubt that you have the intellectual ability to serve as a Justice. From meeting with you and seeing the outpouring of support for your nomination, both from those who know you personally and from professional organizations with which you've worked, I see your collegiality and demeanor as significant attributes in your favor. I appreciate your years as a prosecutor, serving in the trenches of law enforcement. I am looking forward to learning more about the experience and judgment you appear poised to bring to the Supreme Court.

In the last two and a half months, my Republican colleagues have talked a great deal about judicial modesty and restraint. Fair enough to a point, but that point comes when these words become slogans, not real critiques of your record. Indeed, these calls for restraint and modesty, and complaints about "activist" judges, are often codewords, seeking a particular kind of judge who will deliver a particular set of political outcomes.

It is fair to inquire into a nominee's judicial philosophy, and we will have serious and fair inquiry. But the pretence that Republican nominees embody modesty and restraint, or that Democratic nominees must be activists, runs counter to recent history. I particularly reject the analogy of a judge to an "umpire" who merely calls "balls and strikes." If judging were that mechanical, we wouldn't need nine Supreme Court Justices. The task of an appellate judge, particularly on a court of final appeal, is often to define the strike zone, within a matrix of Constitutional principle, legislative intent, and statutory construction.

The "umpire" analogy is belied by Chief Justice Roberts, though he cast himself as an "umpire" during his confirmation hearings. Jeffrey Toobin, a well-respected legal commentator, has recently reported that "[i]n every major case since he became the nation's seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff." Some umpire. And is it a coincidence that this pattern, to continue Toobin's quote, "has served the interests, and reflected the values of the contemporary Republican party"? Some coincidence.

For all the talk of "modesty" and "restraint," the right wing Justices of the Court have a striking record of ignoring precedent, overturning congressional statutes, limiting constitutional protections, and discovering new constitutional rights: the infamous Ledbetter decision, for instance; the Louisville and Seattle integration cases, for example; the first limitation on Roe v. Wade that outright disregards the woman's health and safety; and the DC Heller decision, discovering a constitutional right to own guns that the Court had not previously noticed in 220 years. Over and over, news reporting discusses "fundamental changes in the law" wrought by the Roberts Court's right wing flank. The Roberts Court has not lived up to the promises of modesty or humility made when President Bush nominated Justices Roberts and Alito. Some "balls and strikes."

So, Judge Sotomayor, I'd like to avoid codewords, and look for a simple pledge: that you will decide cases on the law and the facts; that you will respect the role of Congress as representatives of the American people; that you will not prejudge any case, but listen to every party that comes before you; and that you will respect precedent and limit yourself to the issues that the Court must decide; in short, that you will use the broad discretion of a Supreme Court Justice wisely and in keeping with the Constitution.

Let me emphasize that broad discretion. As Justice Stevens has said, "the work of federal judges from the days of John Marshall to the present, like the work of the English common-law judges, sometimes requires the exercise of judgment - a faculty that inevitably calls into play notions of justice, fairness, and concern about the future impact of a decision."

Look at our history. America's common law inheritance is the accretion over generations of individual exercises of judgment. Our Constitution is a great document that John Marshall noted leaves "the minor ingredients" to judgment, to be deduced by our Justices from the document's great principles. The liberties in our Constitution have their boundaries defined, in the gray and overlapping areas, by informed judgment. None of this is "balls and strikes."

It has been a truism since Marbury v. Madison that courts have the authority to "say what the law is," even to invalidate statutes enacted by the elected branches of government when they conflict with the Constitution. So the issue is not whether you have a wide field of discretion: you will. As Justice Cardozo reminds us, you are not free to act as "a knight-errant, roaming at will in pursuit of [your] own ideal of beauty or of goodness," yet, he concluded, "[w]ide enough in all conscience is the field of discretion that remains."

The question for this hearing is: will you bring good judgment to that wide field? Will you understand, and care, how your decisions affect the lives of Americans? Will you use your broad discretion to advance the promises of liberty and justice made by the Constitution?

I believe that your diverse life experience, your broad professional background, your expertise as a judge at each level of the federal system, in short your accrued wisdom, will enrich your judgment as a Supreme Court justice. Justice Alito told this Committee that he brings his perspective as the grandson of immigrants to decisions in that area of the law. I am glad he does. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously said, the life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience.

If your wide experience brings life to a sense of the difficult circumstances faced by the less powerful among us: the woman being shunted around the bank from voicemail to voicemail as she tries to save her home from foreclosure; the family struggling to get by in the neighborhood the police only come to with raid jackets on; the couple up late at the kitchen table after the kids are in bed sweating out how to make ends meet that month; the man who believes a little differently, or looks a little different, or thinks things should be different; the voice no one listens to when the elected branches are deafened by monied interests; if you have empathy for those people in this job, you are doing nothing wrong. It is far better to listen for those unheard voices, and to seek to understand their points of view, than to ignore them in favor of a particular ideology, or corporation, or just the status quo.

The Founding Fathers set up the American judiciary as a check on the excesses of the elected branches, and as a refuge when those branches are corrupted, or consumed by passing passions. Courts were designed to be our guardians against what Hamilton in the Federalist Papers called "those ill humors, which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people . . . and which . . . have a tendency . . . to occasion ? serious oppressions of the minor party in the community." In present circumstances, those oppressions tend to fall on the poor and powerless, those without voice or influence. But as Hamilton noted, "[c]onsiderate men, of every description, ought to prize whatever will tend to beget or fortify that temper in the courts: as no man can be sure that he may not be tomorrow the victim of a spirit of injustice, by which he may be a gainer to-day."

A little skepticism of the status quo, an ear for challenges to the prevailing power structure, an extra effort to hear the side of a party who is out-spent and out-gunned--there is no shame in that for a judge. It is exactly what the Founders intended in an American judge.

The courtroom can be the only sanctuary for the little guy when the forces of society are arrayed against him, when proper opinion and elected officialdom will lend him no ear. This is a correct, fitting, and intended function of the judiciary in our constitutional structure, and the empathy President Obama saw in you has a constitutionally proper place in that structure. If everyone on the Court always voted for the prosecution against the defendant, for the corporation against the plaintiffs, and for the government against the condemned, a vital spark of American democracy would be extinguished. A courtroom is supposed to be a place where the status quo can be disrupted, even upended, when the Constitution or laws may require; where the comfortable can be afflicted and the afflicted find some comfort, all under the shelter of the law. It is worth remembering that judges of the United States have shown great courage over the years, courage verging on heroism, in providing that sanctuary of careful attention, what James Bryce called "the cool dry atmosphere of judicial determination," amidst the inflamed passions or invested powers of the day.

Judge Sotomayor, I believe your broad and balanced background and empathy prepare you well for this constitutional and proper judicial role.

So again, I join my colleagues in welcoming you to the Committee and I look forward to your testimony.

Judge Sotomayor, let me join my colleagues in extending a warm welcome to you and your family today. You have had a distinguished career as a lawyer and a judge. I enjoyed sitting down with you soon after you were nominated. And I am pleased to be able to welcome you to the Senate - and to give you an opportunity to introduce yourself to the American people.

In the history of the United States, there have been only 110 people who served on the Supreme Court. We should all stop and think about that. In more than 200 years, we have had only 110 Justices.

That means each and every Supreme Court nomination is a historic moment for our Nation. Each Supreme Court nomination is a time for a national conversation about the Supreme Court and its role. We have to ask ourselves: What is the proper direction of the Supreme Court?

To answer that, we need to recall our history. The Framers created a written Constitution to make sure our constitutional rights were fixed and certain. The state conventions who represented "We the People" looked at that written Constitution and decided to adopt it. The idea was that our rights would be written down for all to see.

This framework gave judges a role that is both unique in our form of government, and important. The role of judges was intended to be modest - that is, self-restrained and limited. Judges were not free to invent new rights as they saw fit. They were supposed to enforce what the Constitution's text says to enforce - and to leave the rest to the elected branches and to "We the People."

Over time, however, the Supreme Court has often veered off the course established by the Framers. First, the Supreme Court has invented new rights not clearly rooted in any constitutional text. For example, the Supreme Court has micromanaged the death penalty, creating new rights spun from whole cloth. It has announced constitutional rules governing everything from punitive damages to sexual activity. It has relied on international law that the People never adopted.

The Supreme Court has even taken on the job of defining the rules for the game of golf. (If you're curious, the case is PGA Tour v. Martin from 2001). Some people call this "judicial activism." Whatever you call it, it's pretty far from enforcing the written Constitution that the Framers proposed and the people enacted.

As the Supreme Court has invented new constitutional rights - it has often neglected the old ones. This flip side is troubling, too. Many of the original important safeguards on government power have been watered down or even ignored.

Express constitutional limitations like the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Commerce Clause limitations in Article I, and the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms have been artificially limited, almost like they were written out of the Constitution. Judges just haven't enforced them like the people expected them to.

So the Supreme Court has veered off course in multiple directions. The important question today is, where should the Supreme Court go from here? I think there are two choices.

First, the Supreme Court could try to get us back on course. That is, the Court could renew its respect for our original plan of government - and return us slowly but surely to the written Constitution. The Supreme Court's recent Second Amendment decision in DC v. Heller is a good example of this.

Second, the Court could veer off course once again - and follow its own star. It could continue to depart from the written Constitution. It could further erode the established rights we have in the text of the Constitution. And it could invent even more brand new rights not rooted in the text and not agreed to by the American people.

Judge Sotomayor, the purpose of this hearing is to determine which path you would take if confirmed to the Supreme Court. Would you vote to return to the written Constitution and the laws written by the elected representatives of the people? Or would you take us even further away from the written Constitution and laws legitimated by the consent of the governed?

To help the American people understand which of these paths you would take, we need to know more about your record. We need to know more about the legal reasoning behind some of your opinions on the Second Circuit. And we need to know more about some of your public statements related to your judicial philosophy.

In looking at your opinions on the Second Circuit, we recognize that lower court judges are supposed to be bound by Supreme Court and circuit precedent. To borrow a football analogy, a lower court judge is like the quarterback who executes the plays - not the coach who calls the plays.

That means many of your cases don't tell us much about your judicial philosophy. But a few of your opinions do raise questions - because they suggest the kinds of plays you'd call if you were promoted to the coaching staff. These opinions raise the question: would your steer the Court in the wrong direction - by limiting the rights that generations of Americans have regarded as fundamental?

So Americans need to know whether you would limit the scope of the Second Amendment - and whether we can count on you to uphold one of the fundamental liberties enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

We need to know whether you would limit the scope of the Fifth Amendment - and whether you would expand the definition of "public use" by which government can take private property from one person and give it to another person.

And we need to know whether you would uphold the plain language of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment promising that "No State shall ? deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Judge Sotomayor: some of your opinions suggest that you would limit some of our basic constitutional rights - and some of your public statements suggest that you would invent rights that do not exist in our written Constitution.

For example, in a 2001 speech, you argued that there is no objectivity in law, but only what you called "a series of perspectives" rooted in the life experience of each judge. In a 2006 speech, you said that judges can and even must change the law - even introducing what you called "radical change" - to meet the needs of an "evolving" society. And in a 2009 speech, you endorsed the use of foreign law in interpreting the Constitution on the grounds that it gives judges "good ideas" that "get their creative juices flowing."

Judge Sotomayor: we thank you for your candor in these speeches. Not every judicial nominee is so open about their judicial philosophy. Yet many Americans wonder what these various statements mean - and what you're trying to get at with these remarks. And many more wonder whether you are the kind of judge who will uphold the written Constitution - or the kind of judge who will veer us even further off course -and towards new rights invented by judges rather than ratified by the people.

Judge Sotomayor: These are some my concerns. I assure you that you will have every opportunity to address these concerns - and make clear which path you would take if you are confirmed to the Supreme Court. I welcome you to these hearings and I look forward to your testimony.

With House and Senate leaders up against an early, self-imposed August deadline to complete work on health care legislation, the administration may finally be willing to give both a kick in the pants. President Obama is set to meet with Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Charlie Rangel at the White House at 4:30 this afternoon. Under discussion will surely be the question of financing. Rangel has articulated a preference for imposing a surtax on wealthy Americans to pay for about half of the House's reform proposal, while Baucus' committee hasn't settled on any revenue-generating schemes at all.

At the opening statements this morning of the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) told the Supreme Court nominee "unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed. And I don't think you will."

Graham's statements differ from other Republicans' opening statements, in which they attacked Sotomayor for alleged bias in the areas of ethnicity and gender - notably, Sens. Kyl, Grassley, and Coburn discussed this.

The senator from South Carolina also brought up twice that President Obama won the election in November, and that such "elections matter," rounding out his optimistic opening statement for Judge Sotomayor.

We've gotten some more information in recent days about that secret CIA program that the agency withheld key information from Congress about, and that CIA director Leon Panetta promptly shut down when he learned about it last month. But the new reports only raise more questions.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that the CIA withheld information about the secret program "on direct orders" from then-Vice President Dick Cheney. The Times did not identify the program, but noted that, according to intelligence and congressional officials, it involved neither the CIA's interrogation program nor its domestic intelligence (e.g. warrantless wiretapping and surveillance) activities.

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