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Sotomayor in 3rd Day of Nomination Hearing


Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is spending a third day answering questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers continued to ask Sotomayor about her past rulings as a federal judge, and statements she has made, as they consider her nomination for the nation's highest court.

For the past two days, Sotomayor has fielded difficult questions posed by members of the committee, focusing on key rulings over the course of her 17 years in federal courts, and the judicial philosophy she would bring to the nation's highest court.

Democrats and Republicans on the committee differ on how successful she has been in providing a picture of how she would approach her work if she is confirmed for the court.

Republican John Cornyn led off questioning, returning to an issue Republicans have sought to highlight, her statement repeated in past speeches that "a wise Latina judge with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not, reach a better conclusion" when judging a case.

After being asked if she stood by or would disavow the remark, Sotomayor had this further exchange with Senator Cornyn.

CORNYN: "Do you stand by your words of yesterday when you said it was a failed rhetorical flourish and it fell flat and that they [were] a bad idea?"

SOTOMAYOR: "I stand by the words 'It fell flat.' I understand that some people have understood them in a way that I never intended. And I would hope that, in the context of the speech, that they would be understood."

Wednesday also brought additional questions about a woman's right to choose an abortion, established under the Roe v. Wade case in 1973 and reaffirmed in later rulings as settled legal precedent.

Again, in response to Senator Cornyn, Sotomayor said neither President Barack Obama nor anyone else, during her interviews to be nominated to the court, asked her views on abortion rights.

Responding to a key foe of abortion rights, Senator Tom Coburn, Sotomayor declined to be drawn into more specific answers on the abortion issue, repeating her earlier statement that the core holding of Roe v. Wade was reaffirmed in a 1992 Supreme Court ruling.

Sotomayor was also pressed by Republicans about what they see as "judicial activism" seeking her view of the role judges have in impacting the law.

During a break, Republicans and Democrats came to the microphones to give their assessment of Sotomayor's testimony so far.

Senator Cornyn and the ranking Republican on the committee, Jeff Sessions were not satisfied, with Sessions asserting that her responses lacked clarity.

"Frankly I don't think the nominee's answers are any clearer today than they have been," he said. "Muddled is a word I feel like I have to use on many of the important issues that are important to the American people."

Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin called Sotomayor's responses consistent and direct and responded to Republican criticisms.

"It is interesting that some of my Republican colleagues are being critical about [Sotomayor's] speeches," he said. "But when you get down to her record, what she has done as a judge, she has consistently said she will judge the cases based upon the facts, and follow legal precedent, and that is what we want to see in a judge."

If confirmed by the Senate committee, and by the full Senate, Sotomayor would become the first Hispanic to sit on the Supreme Court, and only the third woman to serve on the court.

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