U.S. Senate confirmation hearings have begun for Supreme Court nominee
Sonia Sotomayor, who, if confirmed, would be the first Hispanic and the
third woman to sit on the nation's highest court.
Democrat Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,
lauded Sotomayor's achievements and judicial record. He called for a
fair hearing and for her record not to be distorted.
Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions expressed concern about President
Barack Obama wanting a justice who can empathize with the concerns and
struggles of everyday people. He said he will not vote for someone who,
instead of being impartial, allows their personal background, prejudice
or sympathies to sway their decisions.
Republicans say they want her to explain some of her public comments
and rulings about race-related issues, including a comment that a "wise
Latina" would make better legal decisions than a white male without the
same life experience.
Senator Sessions said he is troubled by some of Sotomayor's rulings,
including one on discrimination that was recently reversed by the
The Supreme Court ruled that a U.S. city
discriminated against a mostly white group of firefighters who were
denied promotions. In doing so, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling
Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president called the
nominee Sunday and expressed his confidence that Sotomayor, a federal
appeals court judge, would be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice,
which is a lifetime appointment.
Since Democrats control 60 of the 100 seats in the full Senate, most
experts believe Sotomayor will be confirmed in time for the Supreme
Court's next term in October. Sotomayor, a 55-year-old New York native,
would replace recently retired Justice David Souter.