Republicans Push Back Against Sotomayor

GOP senators blast Supreme Court nominee's questionnaire, confirmation schedule.

June 12, 2009, 12:38 PM

June 15, 2009— -- A broken ankle is not keeping Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor from meeting with senators on Capitol Hill in the weeks before her July 13 confirmation hearing. But Republicans are ratcheting up their disapproval of the way the nomination is being handled by Senate Democrats and the White House.

In a letter to the White House Thursday, GOP senators complain that Sotomayor's questionnaire contains "apparent omissions" and are asking the judge to "revisit" the questionnaire and provide a supplement "as soon as possible."

The letter, signed by the seven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asks for more information on a range of activities.

The judge's time at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in the early 1980s, her service on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and her membership in an organization, the Belizean Grove, that only invites women to join are all part of the request.

"Please explain," the senators write, "the basis for your belief that membership in an organization that discriminates on the basis of sex nonetheless conforms to the Code of Judicial Conduct."

According to its Web site, the Belizean Grove was created to give women an organization similar to the Bohemian Grove, a "130-year-old, elite old boys' network of former presidents, businessmen, military, musicians, academics, and non-profit leaders."

Democrats dismiss the Republican complaints, saying the judge has told the committee she intends to continue to update her questionnaire as requested information becomes available, and that, in the interest of time, she chose to send the bulk of the information to the senators as soon as possible.

"As is the case with many Supreme Court nominees," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday, "anything that is lacked in the questionnaire will be provided in a timely manner to the committee."

But Republicans continue to complain that Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, is rushing the confirmation process by scheduling the hearings on July 13 -- 48 days after President Barack Obama announced her nomination.

Republicans Want More Time to Review Sotomayor's Record

"They want the shortest confirmation timeline in recent memory for someone with the longest judicial record in recent memory," Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said. "This violates basic standards of fairness, and it prevents senators from carrying out one of their most solemn duties -- a thorough review of the president's nominee to a lifetime position on the highest court in the land. The decision to short-circuit that process is regrettable and unnecessary."

In a floor speech, Leahy dismissed the Republican complaints:

"I have put together a schedule that tracks the process the Senate followed, by bipartisan agreement, in considering President Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court in 2005. At that time, I served as the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee. I met with our Republican chairman, and we worked out a schedule which provided for Chief Justice [John] Roberts' hearing 48 days after he was named by President Bush."

The schedule for Roberts hearing was later pushed back by a week after the death of then Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

While Republicans seek more time to go through all of Sotomayor's legal opinions, Democrats point out that they were able to get through thousands of pages of documents that were written by Roberts when he served in the Reagan administration.

The number of days between a nomination and a hearing has varied throughout the years. While Justice Samuel Alito had 70 days to prepare for his hearings, which were held when the Republicans had a majority in the Congress, the Democratic majority scheduled Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's hearing 36 days after her nomination was announced.

In his floor statement, Leahy outlined why he thought it was important for the hearings to commence nearly a month before the Senate takes its August recess on Aug. 7.

"I also want to conclude the process without unnecessary delay so that she might participate fully in the deliberations of the Supreme Court selecting cases and preparing for its new term," he said.

Democrats, Republicans Spar Over Sotomayor

While the Democratic National Committee has set up a comments section on its Web site, where well-wishes can virtually "sign" Sotomayor's ankle cast, the Senate Republican Communications Center points out that in 2005, Leahy, then the ranking member of Senate Judiciary, once pressured the Republicans to give the Democrats more time in the confirmation process of Roberts.

"We need to consider this nomination as thoroughly and carefully as the American people deserve," he said then. "It's going to take time."

Republicans are also beginning to scrutinize videos Sotomayor has submitted to the committee of various speeches and appearances she has made during the years. In one clip, Sotomayor says, "I am a product of affirmative action ... My test scores were not compatible to that of my colleagues at Princeton and Yale ... Not so far off the mark that I wasn't able to succeed at those institutions."

Wendy Long of the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network says that the comments reflect an unfair bias also evident in Sotomayor's participation in a three-judge panel that threw out the claims of white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., who were denied promotions based on their race.

"She benefited from racial preferences and now, as a judge, she wants to impose the quotas and preferences she favors, instead of applying the Constitution and Bill of Rights fairly to all," Long said.

The case is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

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