Race, race and race dominate GOP opening statements in Sotomayor hearings
At the ten-minute break this morning in the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, five of the seven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have spoken, laying out a predictable path of antagonism for the nominee.
Ranking minority member Jeff Sessions’ (R-Ala.) opening statement was essentially a roadmap of the Republican complaints against Sotomayor. He twice referenced her “wise Latina” address, spoke to her statement about appellate courts as creators of policy, discussed Ricci as evidence of her activism, threw in a mention of her role on the Board of Directors at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and casually mentioned the fund’s support of quotas in affirmative action. “Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another,” said Sessions as he closed.
None of this was surprising. Analysis of the witness list released last week made it clear that race and affirmative action were going to dominate the hearings — and Republican senators are living up to that prediction.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) echoed Sessions, both emphasizing the need for unbiased, non-activist judges, but Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) had a more bombastic opening statement. In a scripted statement, Kyl tiptoed up to the line on charging Sotomayor as biased, saying, “Many of Judge Sotomayor’s public statements suggest that she may, indeed, allow, and even embrace, decision-making based on her biases and prejudice.”
But where Kyl was backhanded in his criticism, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was candid. “Unless you have a complete meltdown, you’re going to be confirmed,” said Graham in a refreshing moment of honesty. ”I don’t want milquetoast judges. I want judges who are able to speak their minds,” Graham surprisingly said later, though he made clear he was still disquieted and looking for an explanation from Sotomayor on her “wise Latina” remarks.