WASHINGTON — The Senate's top Republican said Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor fails the test of impartiality despite her impressive background, while the leading Democrat defended her as a mainstream moderate, as the Senate prepared to debate the judge expected to be confirmed as the first Hispanic and third female justice.
Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada previewed their parties' dueling arguments Tuesday over President Barack Obama's nominee. Nearly three-quarters of GOP senators have lined up against Sotomayor, but a handful are siding with Democrats to support her.
"She's developed a 17-year record as a moderate, mainstream judge," said Reid, the majority leader, calling Sotomayor an "outstanding nominee."
Republicans call her an activist who would bring bias to the high court. They point to rulings that they say show disregard for gun rights, property rights and job discrimination claims by white employees. They are also unsatisfied with Sotomayor's explanation of a 2001 speech in which she said she hoped a "wise Latina" would usually make better decisions than a white male.
"Judge Sotomayor is certainly a fine person with an impressive story and a distinguished background. But a judge must be able to check his or her personal or political agenda at the courtroom door and do justice evenhandedly. … It's a test Judge Sotomayor does not pass," said McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader.
Even so, there appears to be little doubt about the outcome. No Democrat has said he or she will vote against the New York federal appeals judge, and at least six Republicans plan to cross party lines and support her. A final floor vote is expected Thursday or Friday, and a simple majority of senators is needed for her confirmation. The GOP long ago abandoned any notion of a filibuster, draining much of the drama out of the final tally.