WASHINGTON — Republicans see little chance of blocking Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, a key GOP senator conceded Wednesday. But senators and advocacy groups are still girding for this summer's battle — partly with an eye toward raising money and perhaps preparing for President Barack Obama's next nominee.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he didn't foresee a filibuster, essentially the only way Republicans could try to stop Sotomayor since Democrats control the Senate. Still, he made it clear that Republicans were ready to raise pointed questions about whether Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominee to the court, would let her personal life color her legal opinions — and whether that's appropriate for a Supreme Court justice.
Organizations that have been preparing for a major confirmation battle — and that depend on such fights to raise money, motivate supporters and galvanize enthusiasm for their agendas — made it clear they don't intend to sit out the debate, filibuster or no.
Conservative groups kicked off a broad effort to persuade the public that Sotomayor, now a federal appeals judge, is an activist who would impose personal views and ethnic and gender biases on her interpretation of the law and the Constitution.
"Equal justice under law — or under attack?" a Web ad by the Judicial Confirmation Network asks. "America deserves better" than Sotomayor, it concludes.
The White House and liberal groups are hitting back with their own campaign to introduce Sotomayor to the public as an experienced and fair judge whose background gives her a better understanding of how the court affects real people and their lives.
"Principled. Fair-minded. Independent," asserts a TV spot to be aired by the Center for Constitutional Values.
The dueling messages sketched the battle lines for what promise to be closely watched Senate hearings on Sotomayor's nomination, with heavy political consequences for both parties.
Democrats, signaling that they hope to score political points against Republicans in the nomination debate, e-mailed contributors telling them the GOP was "ready to obstruct."
The judge's Capitol Hill debut could come as early as next week, when top aides said she could begin making "courtesy calls" to Senate leaders and members of the Judiciary Committee.
In private, the 54-year-old Sotomayor — a veteran of the federal bench who was reared in a Bronx housing project and attended Princeton and Yale en route to the highest echelons of the legal profession — phoned key senators as she began preparing to face them in high-stakes hearings.
The White House kept up its own campaign, arranging a conference call with six legal experts and lawyers who are Sotomayor boosters to rebut charges that she would bring a personal agenda to the court.