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Senate Panel Votes 13-6 in Favor of Sotomayor

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to approve Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice. The committee voted 13-6 Tuesday to send Sotomayor's nomination to the full Senate next week.

"The filibusters that were going on a few years ago were historic in nature," Graham said, predicting that their continuation would "over time drive good men and woman away from wanting to be judges," rendering the judicial branch "just an extension of politics in another form."

The law, Graham said, "should be a quiet place, where even the most unpopular could have a shot. No way you can win an election, but in the court you might have a shot." He also said that Sotomayor was qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and that if, as the first Latina member, she "will inspire young women, particularly Latina women, to seek a career in the law, that would be a good thing."

Apart from Graham, Republicans gave a series of negative appraisals of Sotomayor's judicial rulings, her statements off the bench and her testimony during the recent hearings. The panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), himself rejected by the same committee for a federal judgeship before he joined the Senate, said he concluded that Sotomayor could not "set aside her personal opinions and biases."

GOP senators criticized a now-famous speech in which Sotomayor said that a "wise Latina woman" would make better decisions as a judge than a white man. And they said she had reached the wrong conclusion on several cases that have come before her court, including a discrimination claim by white firefighters from New Haven, Conn., that was recently reversed by the Supreme Court.

Grassley said the hearings "left me with more questions than answers."

"It is imperative that the nominee persuade us that he or she can set aside their own feelings. . . . I'm not convinced Judge Sotomayor has the ability to wear the judicial blindfold," he said.

Grassley was one of several committee members, Democrats and Republicans alike, who said they regretted that last week's hearings, like other recent Supreme Court confirmations, shed so little light on the nominee's views on the law. And they called for revisions to the confirmation process so that nominees' views become more clear.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said, "These hearings have become little more than theater."

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