Democrats have highlighted Sotomayor's compelling life story, from New York housing projects to the most elite universities in the nation.
"I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government," Sotomayor said when she was nominated May 26.
"She has said her own background in feelings, sympathies, even prejudices are naturally going to have an impact on how she rules in cases," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking member of Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday. "That's directly contrary to the American ideal that every judge must put aside their personal feelings, backgrounds, prejudices and render justice to each party in that case."
As part of that argument, they point to comments she made in 2005 at a panel at Duke Law School, when she suggested that appeals courts make policy instead of merely interpreting and applying the law. She quickly added, "I know, and I know this is on tape, and I should never say that, because we don't make law I know."
Leahy dismissed the concerns on Sunday, saying, "There's been no evidence whatsoever that she's allowed partiality to creep into her judgments as a judge."
But there are several issues that will come up during Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
The sharpest questions for Sotomayor could well be on the issue of race and affirmative action, with senators delving into Sotomayor's own words on the subject.
In a 2002 speech, she said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
Obama attempted to diffuse the issue, telling NBC News, "I am sure she would have restated" the statement. But, in fact, Sotomayor had repeated a similar sentiment in several speeches.
The comment caused conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh to call her a "reverse racist." Other Republicans distanced themselves from such characterizations, saying they would focus on her record.
The only sitting female Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said attention paid to the issue was "ridiculous." She told the New York Times: "Think of how many times you've said something that you didn't get out quite right, and you would edit your statement if you could."
Sotomayor has often brought up her Latina heritage and humble roots. "I am a product of affirmative action," she told one panel in the early '90s. "I am a perfect affirmative action baby."
Senators also will ask about Sotomayor's decision as a lower court judge in a controversial race discrimination case. Sotomayor sat on a three-judge panel that ruled against white and Hispanic firefighters who claimed the city of New Haven, Conn., had denied them promotions based on their race. A sharply divided Supreme Court reversed that decision last month, finding in favor of the white and Hispanic firefighters. Republican senators have invited two of those firefighters to testify against Sotomayor.