Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sotomayor Confirmed

This just in ...

With a vote of 68-to-31 in the Senate, Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed as the next Justice of the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor is the first Hispanic to ever serve on the nation's highest court, and she is the first nominee by a Democratic President since Bill Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer in 1994. Sotmayor replaces retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal, and is not expected to change the court's ideological balance.

The Supreme Court has grown more conservative thanks to recent Republican appointees under George W. Bush, and several Republicans in the Senate were worried about Sotomayor's stance on gun rights and discrimination against whites -- referencing several times her "wise Latina" comments and pointing to a Connecticut case in which Sotomayor ruled against white firefighters.

Still, with an anonymous show of support from the Bar Association and a large Democratic majority in the Senate, Sotomayor's confimation was virtually assured even before her hearings began. Republicans, probably realizing they had no real shot at turning down her nomination on the basis of her record, chose to focus on out-of-context comments and their own racial concerns in expressing dissent.

Still, nine Republicans -- including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee -- voted for Sotomayor. John McCain of Arizona, who just last week said his party needed to do a better job of courting Hispanic voters, voted against Sotomayor.

While Sotomayor's confirmation will likely not shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court -- did I already say that? -- her confirmation process could be a portent of things to come should President Obama face having to name another Supreme Court nominee. He does face such a possibility, particularly if he serves two terms.

How he -- and the Republicans -- handle that could be influenced by how Sotomayor's confirmation played out.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this entry.

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