WASHINGTON — Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, is expected to win approval today in a near-party-line vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, reflecting the partisan divide on judicial nominees that has taken hold in recent years.
All 12 Democrats on the panel have voiced support for the New York appellate judge, while all but one of the seven Republicans have indicated they will vote no.
The lineup signals Sotomayor will win confirmation in the Senate by a comfortable margin and become the first Hispanic justice, but she will likely do so without much Republican support. The full Senate is expected to take up her nomination next week.
As expected, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, said Monday he will vote against Sotomayor.
The lone exception to the party-line vote today in the committee figures to be Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Last week, the Republican said he would vote to confirm Sotomayor.
"Elections have consequences," Graham said, insisting a president's well-qualified court nominees deserve to be confirmed. He noted, however, that then-Sen. Obama and most of the Democrats did not follow that standard with President George W. Bush's two Supreme Court nominees.
In 2006, Justice Samuel Alito, an appeals court judge considered well-qualified, was confirmed by the Senate in a 58-42 vote, with only four Democrats in favor. A few months earlier, Chief Justice John Roberts won confirmation on a 78-22 vote, with half the Democrats voting for him and half against. Obama voted against Roberts and Alito.
Two veteran Republicans, Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Orrin Hatch of Utah, said their votes against Sotomayor will be their first "no" votes on a Supreme Court nominee, and they pointed to changed standards in the Senate.
"I think it's a whole new ball game, a lot different than I approached it with Ginsburg and Breyer," Grassley said last month. He was referring to President Bill Clinton's two Supreme Court picks: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was confirmed on a 96-3 vote in 1993, and Justice Stephen Breyer, who was confirmed on an 87-9 vote in 1994.