President Obama and federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor at the nomination announcement Tuesday.AP PHOTO
WASHINGTON — The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday he doesn’t foresee a filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, even though he thinks her legal philosophy should be closely examined.
“The nominee has serious problems,” Sen. Jeff Sessions said in a nationally broadcast interview. “But I would think that we would all have a good hearing, take our time, and do it right. And then the senators cast their vote up or down based on whether or not they think this is the kind of judge that should be on the court.”
“I don’t sense a filibuster in the works,” the Alabama Republican said, after President Barack Obama’s call for the Senate to install his history-making choice of the 54-year-old Sotomayor to succeed Justice David Souter on the high court. She would be the first Hispanic justice to serve there.
Sessions and Sotomayor have spoken by phone, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. Sotomayor also spoke with Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Democratic chairman of the committee that will oversee confirmation hearings. Additionally, Sotomayor called party leaders Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Gibbs said. She will start visiting senators next week.
The GOP faces an uphill battle in defeating the New York-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents, but Republicans are promising a thorough and perhaps lengthy hearing process that delves into her record and judicial philosophy.
Democrats hold 59 votes in the Senate, more than enough to confirm Sotomayor but not quite enough to stop a vote-blocking filibuster if Republicans should attempt one. Still, seven Republican senators currently serving backed Sotomayor’s 1998 nomination to the appeals court covering New York, Vermont and Connecticut, and she was first nominated to be a federal judge by Republican President George H.W. Bush.
Sessions was among several Republicans who opposed her when she came before the Senate as a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998. On Tuesday, he said: “We ought to look at her record fresh.”
Any Republican effort to block Sotomayor’s confirmation could be risky for a party still reeling from last year’s elections and struggling to gain back lost ground with Hispanics.