WASHINGTON — Republican senators voiced skepticism Sunday about President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, but avoided the name-calling that has come from some conservative activists, notably former House speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who have labeled Sotomayor a "racist."
"I don't think that's an accurate description of her," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of several Republican senators who discussed the nomination on the Sunday talk shows.
Sessions agreed on NBC's Meet the Press that Sotomayor's record — former prosecutor, corporate lawyer, 17 years as a federal judge, at both the district and circuit levels — is "the kind of background you would look for, almost an ideal mix" of experience for the Supreme Court. "That's very strong in her favor," he said.
But he said he and other members of his party are concerned about speeches Sotomayor has given about a judge's decisions being affected by life experiences. "It goes against the heart of the great American heritage of an independent judge," he said.
None of the Republicans on the shows predicted attempting a filibuster to block Sotomayor's nomination, but none ruled it out.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted that GOP senators will not mount a filibuster. On This Week, he said he thinks Republicans will see her as "legally excellent" and not "far-left-wing," noting that "Business Week said her record on business was moderate" and that "the Wall Street Journal called her mainstream."
"I think she's virtually filibuster-proof when people learn her record and her story," he said.
Much of the talk-show discussion involved Sotomayor's remark at a 2001 conference on Hispanics in the judiciary in which she talked about how her Puerto Rican heritage affects her role as a judge. "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said.
Her defenders say the line has been taken out of context, and that she was merely making the point that any judge's outlook is shaped by his or her experiences.