Sonia Sotomayor One Step Closer to Confirmation Vote

"But in speech after speech, year after year, Judge Sotomayor set forth a fully formed, I believe, judicial philosophy."

At the beginning of the hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., countered Sessions' reasoning, calling Sotomayor a "restrained, fair and impartial judge who applies the law to the facts to decide cases."

"Ironically, the few decisions for which she's been criticized for are cases which she did not, did not reach out to change the law… In other words, cases in which she refused to be an activist judge and make law from the bench," Leahy said, a nod to the cases Sessions and other conservatives have cited.

"In her 17 years on the bench, there is not one example of, let alone a pattern, of her ruling based on bias or prejudice or sympathy," Leahy added. "She has been true to her oath. She has faithfully and partially performed her duties as set forth by the constitution."

Schumer, Democrats Defend Sotomayor

Sessions also charged that Sotomayor's testimony was "not consistent" with "repeated phrases and statements" she has made in the past, such as her "wise Latina woman" remark.

Her testimony, Sessions said, "did not have the clarity and the compelling nature that would overcome those speeches."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, agreed, saying that Sotomayor's testimony left him "with more questions than answers" and said he's not convinced that she would be able to put on the "judicial blindfold."

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called it "unfair" for critics to boil Sotomayor's career down to the three words "wise Latina woman," and other Democrats cited her experiences -- both in her career and in her personal life -- in their defenses of her.

Sotomayor, the daughter of Puerto Rican parents, grew up in Bronx housing projects before ascending to Princeton and Yale. She worked as a prosecutor and in private practice before President George H.W. Bush first nominated her to the federal bench in 1991, and in 1997 President Clinton tapped her as a federal appeals judge.

Sessions and his fellow Republicans praised Sotomayor for her accomplishments, but also cited concerns about how she would interpret the Second Amendment and other issues if confirmed.

The powerful National Rifle Association has vocally opposed Sotomayor and made it known last week that senators' votes on Sotomayor will be factored into future candidate evaluations compiled by the organization. The Washington Post noted in an editorial that the NRA is making that move for the first time in its 138-year history.

Anti-abortion rights groups have also spoken out against the nominee; Americans United for Life president and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest expressed deep concern about Sotomayor's views when she testified at her confirmation hearings.

ABC News' Caitlin Taylor and Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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