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US Supreme Court Confirmation Battle Could Take Months

Liberal and conservative political groups are bracing for what could be a divisive battle over the confirmation for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The Senate will take up Judge Sotomayor's nomination sometime in the next several weeks.

President Obama has made Senate confirmation of Judge Sotomayor a major domestic political priority in the months ahead.

"When she ascends those marble steps to assume her seat on the highest court of the land, America will take another important step towards realizing the ideal that's chiseled above its entrance, equal justice under the law," President Obama said.

The president wants Sotomayor confirmed in time for her to join the nine-member Supreme Court when it opens its next term in October.

Sotomayor will have several weeks to prepare for the Senate confirmation hearings, which are often grueling for high court nominees.

Despite the expected grilling, Sotomayor says she is looking forward to the sessions with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"You have nominated me to serve on the country's highest court, and I am deeply moved," she said.

For now, most Republican senators indicate they will wait until the hearings before making a decision on whether to support Sotomayor, who would become the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and the second woman on the current court.

But conservative groups have already seized on some comments she has made off the bench that have aroused concern.

Sotomayor can expect plenty of questions about a comment she made in a speech in 2001 in which she said 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.

Gary Marx is with a conservative group called the Judicial Confirmation Network. He is urging Senate Republicans to oppose Sotomayor's nomination.

"We see more of a political agenda that she is bringing to her decisions, coming before the law that is written," Marx said.

Liberal groups are expected to lobby just as strongly on her behalf. But some of them will be looking for assurances that Sotomayor favors abortion rights, an issue that is often a key flashpoint before the Supreme Court.

Nan Aron with the liberal Alliance for Justice says Supreme Court nominations almost always set off a heated debate over politics and the law.

"There is usually a very substantial debate over the nomination of a Supreme Court justice, as well there should be given the fact that Supreme Court justices are so powerful and have such a powerful hold over our lives for really decades to come," he said.

After the hearings, the full Senate will vote whether to confirm Sotomayor to the high court. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life.

At this point, Democrats are confident Sotomayor will be confirmed because they control nearly 60 of the 100 Senate seats, making it very difficult for Republicans to either block her nomination outright or try to sidetrack it through parliamentary delaying tactics.