The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States. The largely party line 13 to 6 vote sends the nomination of Sotomayor, who would be the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, to the full Senate for consideration.
As expected, all but one of seven Republicans on the panel voted against Sotomayor, pointing to what they asserted are indications from her judicial record and public statements that she would bring a personal bias to the high court.
Among the six Republicans voting against Sotomayor, Senator Jeff Sessions cited decisions she has made as a federal court judge that he asserted lacked careful analysis and signaled how she would rule in cases coming before the Supreme Court.
"Each of these three cases of importance deserved to be treated with great thoughtfulness and care," said Sessions. "Yet in each instance, her decisions were unacceptably short and their only consistency was that the result favored a liberal, pro-government ideology against the individuals asserting their constitutional rights."
Senator Charles Grassley, who voted against Sotomayor's nomination in 1998 to be a federal circuit court judge, said in her nomination hearing for the Supreme Court she failed to persuade him that she would rule dispassionately.
"It is imperative that the nominee persuade us that he or she will be able to set aside one's own feelings so he or she can dispassionately administer equal justice," said Grassley. "Yet I am not convinced that Judge Sotomayor has the ability to wear the judicial blindfold, and resist having personal biases and preferences dictate her judicial method on the Supreme Court."
During her confirmation hearing, Sotomayor faced sharp questions about remarks she made in several speeches in which she said "a wise Latina would more often than not reach a better conclusion" than a white male in judging a case.
But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that while he had concerns about this, Sotomayor's remarks needed to be placed in context, and he referred to the historic nature of her nomination.
"We are 200 and something years old as a nation," said Graham. "This is the first Latino woman in the history of the United States to be selected for the Supreme Court. Now that is a big deal. I would not have chosen her, but I understand why President Obama did."
The committee chairman, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, described Sotomayor as a restrained, impartial and fair judge who would not favor one group of people over another in her judgments on the high court.
Senator Russ Feingold and fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein said Sotomayor's judicial qualifications and philosophies had been thoroughly tested.
"I do not see in her record or her public statements a burning desire to overturn precedent or to remake constitutional law in the image of her own personal preference, and I certainly do not see any bias of any kind," said Feingold.
"She has shown a dedication to the law," said Feinstein. "This has been tested and tested. She has shown before us judicial temperament. This has been probed and picked at. I find no example of infidelity to the law."
Approval of Judge Sotomayor by the Senate Judiciary Committee moves her nomination to the full Senate, which is expected to act on it next week.