Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is one step closer to confirmation today, as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to send her nomination to the full Senate for consideration.
The vote fell largely along party lines, with 12 Democrats voting in favor of the move and six Republicans voting against. One Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, joined the Democrats.
"I gladly give her my vote because I think she meets the qualifications test that was used in [Justices] Scalia and Ginsburg," Graham said today. "And if she, by being a woman on the court, will inspire young women, particularly Latino women to seek a career in the law, that would be a good thing."
The Senate is widely expected to confirm Sotomayor, 55, which would make her the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. The vote is expected to be held sometime in August.
Graham today said the discussions about the president's so-called empathy standard -- President Obamahas called the quality an "essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes" -- "makes us all kind of Dr. Phils," a reference to the TV psychologist.
"I feel uncomfortable doing that. I really do. So I base my vote on qualifications, and I came away after the hearing believing that she was well-qualified," he said.
Graham called Sotomayor "competent, not just qualified" and "left of center, but certainly within the mainstream."
"What she will do as a judge, I think, will be based on what she thinks is right, and that's not me saying that or hoping that. That's based on a 12-year record, where I haven't seen this activism that we all dread, and should reject," Graham added.
Conservatives ramped up their criticism of Sotomayor after her confirmation hearings earlier this month, saying she failed to alleviate their concerns over hot-button issues such as abortion rights and gun control, or explain controversial past comments that a "wise Latina woman" might reach a better conclusion in some cases than a white man.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the panel, voted against Sotomayor, one day after laying out his argument against her in a Monday opinion column published in USA Today.
Both today and in the article, Sessions pointed to Sotomayor's past rulings, including a divisive discrimination case filed by a group of white and Hispanic firefighters in New Haven, Conn.
As an appeals judge, Sotomayor ruled against the firefighters, a decision the Supreme Court voted along ideological lines to overturn last month. Now retired Justice David Souter, whose vacancy Sotomayor will fill if confirmed, voted to uphold the earlier rulings.
That ruling and others Sessions cited "have three things in common," Sessions wrote in USA Today. "Each was contrary to the Constitution. Each was decided in a brief opinion, short on analysis. And each was consistent with liberal political thought."
Sessions today commended Sotomayor for her grace and patience during her confirmation hearings, but said that "based on her record as a judge and her statements I am not able to support this nomination. I don't believe anyone should be on any court of the United States that is not deeply committed to the ideal of American justice, and that is, that they should set aside their personal opinions and biases when they rule from the court."