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Sotomayor Completes Nomination Hearing

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has completed testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee considering her nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court. Sotomayor faced additional tough questions but also drew some praise from Republican critics.

Republicans who have been hard on Sotomayor for remarks she made in various past speeches reiterated those concerns as they questioned the nominee on Thursday.

Senator John Cornyn said confusion remained about Sotomayor's views on the law, and her view of the role personal background and beliefs play in the process of judging.

Asked by Cornyn what he should tell his constituents worried about apparent contradictions between her past comments and testimony to the committee, Sotomayor repeated her "fidelity to the law", and received this response from the senator.

SOTOMAYOR: "Look at my record and understand that my record talks about who I am as a person, what I believe in and my judgment and my opinion that following the rule of law is the foundation of our system of justice."

CORNYN: "Judge, I actually agree that your judicial record strikes me as pretty much in the mainstream of judicial decision-making by district court judges, and by court of appeals judges on the federal bench."

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said while Sotomayor's past speeches raise concerns she might allow "gender and racial affiliations" to influence her judgments on the Supreme Court, her explanations had been generally reassuring.

"A lot of us wonder, will you take that line of thinking to the Supreme Court in these cases of first precedent," he said. "[But] you have been very reassuring here today, and throughout this hearing that you are going to try and understand the difference between judging and whatever political feelings you have about groups or gender."

Throughout the week-long hearing, Sotomayor consistently avoided offering opinions on controversial legal and constitutional issues, saying doing so could be seen as pre-judging cases the Supreme Court might consider.

On same sex marriage, Sotomayor said the issue is being hotly debated at every level of American society, and while she would have an open mind on any case coming before the court, to comment could be seen as bringing her own personal views on the issue.

Sotomayor took the same approach on other issues, including abortion, gun rights, freedom of speech, and separation of powers.

Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic to serve on the court, said she would like to be seen by history as a fair judge, caring person and someone who served her country, and had this observation about the impact her accomplishments and her nomination might be having.

"Whether you were born rich or poor, of any color or background, life's challenges place hurdles every day and one of the wonderful parts of the courage of America is that we overcome them, and I think that people have taken that sense that on some levels I have done some of that at various stages of my life," she said.

Committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy praised Sotomayor for answering questions with "intelligence, grace and patience" during the long hearing.

"[Your] experience and wisdom will benefit all Americans," he said. "And when you walk under that piece of Vermont marble over the door of the Supreme Court, speaking of equal justice under the law, I know that will guide you."

After Sotomayor's appearance, the committee is hearing from 31 witnesses invited by Republicans and Democrats to testify about her judicial record, including former FBI director Louis Freeh, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as lawyers, gun rights advocates, and anti-abortion activists.

Though many Republicans are likely to vote against the nomination, Senator Leahy said he believes she may pick up support from some republicans on the committee, which is dominated by Democrats.

Leahy plans to call a committee vote next Tuesday on Sotomayor's nomination, which would send it to the full Senate for a vote, which he hopes will occur before the August congressional break.