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Judiciary Approves Sotomayor, Sends Nomination to Senate

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination of Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor on a largely party-line vote, with only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) siding with Democrats to support President Barack Obama’s first high court nominee.The panel’s 13-6 vote went as expected and sets the stage for what will likely be one of the tamer Supreme Court confirmation floor debates in recent history.Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) opened the hearing with a brief statement, thanking members of the committee for working well together during the confirmation process and once again touting Sotomayor’s qualifications. Sotomayor, a New York native, is a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She would become the first Latina on the nine-member Supreme Court.“I want to thank all of the members of the committee for their cooperation … [and giving] her a chance in having a public voice— and responding to her critics, Leahy said.Ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who announced his opposition in a USA Today opinion piece Monday, similarly praised the committee’s conduct before reiterating his concerns with Sotomayor, which include her previous statements on the role of a judge. Although Sessions pointed to Sotomayor’s “grace— during the hearings, he explained, “I would just say … based on her record as a judge and her statements, I am not able to support her nomination.—“In speech after speech, year after year, Judge Sotomayor set forth a fully formed judicial philosophy … her words and speeches are not being taken out of context, as some have suggested,— he added.Graham said he has a new appreciation for many of his fellow Senate Democrats, who in 2005 ended up voting for Chief Justice John Roberts.“My colleagues who voted for him, I understand what you went through. Leahy, [Sen. Russ] Feingold [D-Wis], [Sen. Herb] Kohl [D-Wis.]. You decided to vote for a man you would not have chosen. And I’ve decided to vote for a woman I would not have chosen. And as the hearings went on it got easier, not harder.—Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will likely schedule four days of debate with a goal of a full Senate vote next week.Sotomayor is expected win confirmation with a healthy bipartisan margin. Republicans and Democrats alike have predicted that she could receive up to 70 votes for her confirmation.In addition to Graham, four other Republican Senators have said they would vote to install her on the bench. Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Sens. Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Mel Martinez (Fla.) have endorsed the nomination.