In nominating U.S. Courts of Appeal Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama praised her legal and personal experience and her “wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life struggle.”
The president said Sotomayor, who grew up in a Bronx housing project, would bring "more varied experience on the bench, than anyone currently serving on the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed."
In describing how he will scrutinize Sotomayor’s record, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, invoked the famous line from John Roberts’ confirmation hearing, that a judge is an umpire “calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one’s own personal preferences or political views.”
Sessions said it is reasonable to have a nominee voted on by the next court session, but added: "We must remember that a Supreme Court justice sits for a lifetime appointment, and the Senate hearing is the only opportunity for the American people to engage in the nomination process."
"Adequate preparation will take time. I will insist that, consistent with recent confirmation processes, every senator be accorded the opportunity to prepare, ask questions, and receive full and complete answers," he added in a statement.
Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee decried the “appointment” of “Maria Sotomayor.”
“The appointment of Maria Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama’s campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bi-partisan way were mere rhetoric. Sotomayor comes from the far left and will likely leave us with something akin to the ‘Extreme Court’ that could mark a major shift. The notion that appellate court decisions are to be interpreted by the ‘feelings’ of the judge is a direct affront of the basic premise of our judicial system that is supposed to apply the law without personal emotion. If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice,” the former Arkansas governor said in a statement.
Republican Senators Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, signaled that her confirmation could be a lengthy process.
“Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly. But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences,” Senate Minority Leader McConnell said.
The president has indicated he would like to see Sotomayor confirmed before Congress’ recess in August.
“Because Judge Sotomayor would serve for life if she is confirmed, it is essential that the Senate conducts this process thoroughly and the president has assured me that we will have ample time to give Ms. Sotomayor’s record a full and fair review,” Cornyn said in a statement.
Critics point to a statement Sotomayor made at a Duke University School of Law panel four years ago where she said, "All of the legal defense funds out there, they’re looking for people with court of appeals experience, because it is, court of appeals is where policy is made."
She added, to a laughing audience: "And I know, and I know this is on tape, and I should never say that, because we don’t make law, I know. … OK. I know. I know. I’m not promoting it, and I’m not advocating it, I’m, you know."
Sotomayor has been confirmed twice by the Senate. Republicans who voted to confirm her in 1998 included Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and former senators Bill Frist of Tennessee, Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.