Political Digest

Political Digest: Sotomayor Hearings to Start July 13

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Confirmation Hearings Set to Start July 13

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that confirmation hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court will begin July 13. That drew a quick and angry response from Republicans who had urged a later start to the proceedings.

"In selecting this date I am trying to be fair to all concerned," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement. "I want to be fair to the nominee and allow her the earliest possible opportunity to respond to the attacks made about her character."

And Leahy appealed to precedent.

"This is a schedule that tracks the process the Senate followed by bipartisan agreement in considering President Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court in 2005," he said in a statement read on the Senate floor. ". . . If 48 days were sufficient to prepare for that hearing . . . it is certainly adequate time to prepare for the confirmation hearing for Judge Sotomayor."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he learned of the timing for the hearings not from Leahy but from media reports.

"I believe [July 13] is too early. I don't believe it's necessary," he said. "It's far more important we do this matter right than we do it quick."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in a blistering floor statement directed at Leahy, read from statements the chairman made during the confirmations of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. "And he also said, 'We want to do it right, and we don't want to do it fast.' If that was the standard years ago when the Republicans were in the majority, I don't know why it isn't the standard today," McConnell said.

While senior Republicans cited Democratic statements seeking to slow down the Roberts and Alito confirmations, they made no mention of their own statements in 2005 and 2006 in which they demanded speedy hearings and votes on President George W. Bush's nominees.

President Obama has said he wants the Senate to vote on Sotomayor before Aug. 7, when the Senate is slated to start a five-week recess. Sessions said such a timeline is unrealistic.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta

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