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GOP Senate Trio Backs Sotomayor; McConnell Opposes

Updated: 1:15 p.m.

Sens. Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) joined Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.) as the first three Republican Senators to endorse the nomination of Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor.

As expected, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday announced he would be opposing the nomination.

In a statement posted to his Web site, Lugar said that following a review of her record and testimony to the Judiciary Committee, he decided to back Sotomayor. Lugar is not a member of the Judiciary panel, which wrapped up hearings on Sotomayor on Thursday night.

“I have listened to the testimony of Judge Sonia Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee, carefully reviewed her public service record and reviewed recommendations from Indiana constituents and colleagues here in the Senate,— Lugar said.

“Judge Sotomayor is clearly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and … I will vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,— Lugar said.

In a statement released a few hours later, Martinez formally backed Sotomayor.

“Given her judicial record, and her testimony this week, it is my determination that Judge Sotomayor is well-qualified to serve as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. … As an Hispanic American, I take great pride in Judge Sotomayor’s historic achievement. Given her qualifications and testimony this week, I intend to vote in favor of her confirmation,— he said.

Although Lugar and Martinez are the first Republican Senators to officially back the nomination, at least one other Republican — Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham (S.C.) — all but endorsed Sotomayor during Thursday’s hearing. After emerging as one of her fiercest critics, Graham used his question period Thursday to praise her record and argue that she is not an activist judge.

Also Friday, Sotomayor picked up the endorsement of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.). Specter, who before bolting the GOP in April was the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, was also an aggressive questioner of Sotomayor, pressing her throughout the hearings on detailed questions of legal theory and precedent.