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Reid Assures Sotomayor’s Confirmation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday reiterated his intention to wrap up the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court before the August recess, after the Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination on a largely party-line vote.

Reid has not yet said when he will begin the debate or how many days he will schedule. But during his weekly press conference, Reid noted that it could take several days.

“If every Republican wanted to speak for an hour on her, I think we would hear a lot of the same thing. That’s 40 hours. So that’s two days. When we get to her, we’re going to work right through, night and day, to finish that,— Reid said.

Sotomayor’s confirmation is not in question, with Democrats and Republicans alike predicting as many as 70 Senators will vote to install her on the high court. The Judiciary panel voted 13-6 in favor of the nomination Tuesday, with just one Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), lending his support. Four other GOP Senators have said they will vote in favor, including Sens. Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

As has been the case throughout the confirmation process, Democrats have touted Sotomayor as a qualified jurist who has impeccable credentials and who would follow the law. Republicans, however, have argued she would allow personal biases to influence her rulings and tried to lay the groundwork for future Supreme Court nomination battles.

“Judge Sotomayor is well qualified. One need look no further than her experience, ability, temperament and judgment. The president nominated a person with more federal judicial experience than any nominee in the last 100 years. He nominated someone with federal trial judge experience and someone who was a prosecutor. As her record and her testimony before the committee reinforced, she is a restrained, fair and impartial judge who applies the law to the facts to decide cases,— Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said prior to the committee’s vote.

[IMGCAP(1)]Senate Democrats have continued to tout Sotomayor’s life story and the fact that she would serve as the first Latina on the Supreme Court. Leahy and Reid today will hold a press event with civil rights leaders to discuss Sotomayor’s nomination.

Meanwhile, conservative activists and Senate Republicans sought to cast the Judiciary panel’s divided vote as a shift in the party’s approach to high court confirmations.

For instance, Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, argued that Republicans will not simply rubber-stamp a president’s nominee.

“Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee vote is a line in the sand: Republicans will no longer defer to confirmation of liberal judicial activists. The overwhelming, almost-unanimous Republican opposition to the nomination of Judge Sotomayor is a historical first. This vote will mark the moment when Senators began, in their constitutional exercise of advice and consent,’ to push the Supreme Court back to its proper role of judicial restraint under the Constitution,— Long said.

Long noted that GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) for the first time in their careers voted against a president’s Supreme Court pick.

“They, like many Republicans, have historically been far more deferential to Democratic presidents when it came to court picks than Democrats have been to Republicans,— Long said.

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who also serves as the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, said he hopes the Judiciary hearings helped set the stage for future judicial nomination debates. Cornyn said he hopes “her testimony before this committee represents a teaching moment’ — a moment that defines our consensus on what the role of a judge should be. … Our new consensus is encouraging, Mr. Chairman. We have defined where the judicial mainstream is. We have made clear that radical views on judging have no place on the federal bench. And we have set expectations for future nominees.—

Throughout Sotomayor’s confirmation process, Senate Republicans have privately acknowledged that they were using Sotomayor as a foil to begin a larger fight over the direction of the judiciary and President Barack Obama’s “empathy— standard for selecting federal judicial nominees.

Sotomayor would replace Justice David Souter, who retired from the court in June. If Reid sticks to his plan, Sotomayor will be in place in time for the Supreme Court’s next session, which begins this fall.