Sonia Sotomayor Makes the Rounds on Capitol Hill

Obama Team Relies on Schumer

While past administrations brought in a "gray-beard" Washington wise man to serve as the public point person for the nominee, Sotomayor and the Obama team will lean heavily on Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is a veteran of the Judiciary Committee and from Sotomayor's home state.

Sotomayor and Schumer are slated for a lunch meeting today.

But the road to her possible confirmation might not be as smooth as Democrats would like.


Republicans on the Hill have promised a full debate on Sotomayor's nomination, and today a bloc of more than 140 conservative groups encouraged Republican lawmakers to delay the nomination pending a full debate on the Senate floor.

Additionally, GOP leadership and Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wouldn't rule out the possibility of a filibuster when he appeared on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday, saying that "it's really premature to say that or to speculate."

Ed Gillespie, who helped guide nominees John Roberts and Sam Alito through their confirmation processes in 2005, said the first week in the life of a Supreme Court nominee is the most challenging period of the confirmation process.

"The nominee will, as is custom and tradition … go dark essentially, other than meetings one-on-one with the senators. And that's for the nominee, sometimes they like to be out responding to some of these stories, rumors, charges, allegations, but that's not really in the nominee's interest," he said.

Gillespie and others who have been involved in Supreme Court nominations said that with all of the noise coming from the outside interest groups and pundits, it is important to remember that the critical audience is the 18-member the Senate Judiciary committee and the 100 members of the Senate.

"Broader audience doesn't matter as much; let the White House people deal with that," Gillespie said.

So who gets to "deal with that," as Gillespie put it? Cue Stephanie Cutter, who left her job as an adviser to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to head up the team that will shape the White House's message through the confirmation process.

Cutter, a seasoned Democratic political operative, brings experience from coordinating the Democrats' opposition to Roberts and Alito in 2005 and has close ties to the Senate.

"Stephanie knows the Senate and she knows the leading Democratic senators. But she also has a real institutional sense for the rhythms of the Senate and the give and take that goes on between the two sides," said one Democratic party official. "She has a good bulls*** detector on what is political posturing for posturing sake."

As Sotomayor begins the process of navigating the often tricky halls of the Senate, she is led by Schumer, who is "somebody who obviously has been around a number of court confirmations," according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Sotomayor's Full Capitol Hill Schedule

In advance of her visits, Gibbs said that Sotomayor already reached out by telephone to key Senate leaders, including Reid, Leahy, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sessions.

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