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A Vote on Principle
Sen. Lindsey Graham's approach to judicial nominations should be emulated by his colleagues.

Friday, July 31, 2009

IN WHAT HAS become a rare phenomenon, a United States senator rose above partisan backbiting and interest-group pressures to support a Supreme Court nominee put forth by the other party. In casting his vote for Judge Sonia Sotomayor Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) struck a blow for comity, decency and intellectual honesty.

"You decided to vote for a man you would not have chosen," Mr. Graham said, referring to Democratic members of the committee who voted to confirm John G. Roberts Jr., President George W. Bush's nominee for chief justice. "I'm deciding to vote for a woman that I would not have chosen."

Mr. Graham, the only Republican on the Senate panel to vote in favor of Judge Sotomayor, said he was doing so because he concluded that she was qualified. Other Republican members also acknowledged her qualifications but voted no because of concerns over her alleged hostility to the Second Amendment and property rights, and the possibility that she would let her personal preferences supplant the law in rendering decisions. Never mind that Judge Sotomayor repeatedly affirmed an individual's right to bear arms and proved during her 17-year tenure on the federal bench that she could separate her personal feelings from her professional duties as a judge.

Mr. Graham's vote has a significance that transcends any single nominee. He was a member of the Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of senators that helped avert filibusters of judicial nominees during the Bush administration. He is standing by the same principles today even though a Democrat now occupies the White House. "What I'm trying to do with my vote is to recognize that we came perilously close to damaging an institution, the judiciary, that has held this country together in difficult times," Mr. Graham added. "The law should be a quiet place, where even the most unpopular can have a shot."

Judge Sotomayor's confirmation, which the full Senate is likely to take up next week, is not seriously in doubt; a handful of Republican senators have already announced their intention to join the majority Democrats in supporting her. More Republican senators should do likewise. Judge Sotomayor may not be their nominee of choice, but as Mr. Graham has noted, elections have consequences.

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