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Obama Very Happy With Senate Vote for Sotomayor

U.S. President Barack Obama and Hispanic organizations are applauding the Senate's vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

When Sotomayor is sworn in on Saturday, she will become the first Hispanic and third woman on the nation's highest court.

President Obama says he is happy with the Senate's 68-to-31 vote to confirm Sotomayor, and he admires her intellect, temperament, integrity and independence.

"They are ideals she has fought for throughout her career, and the ideals the Senate has upheld today in breaking yet another barrier and moving us yet another step closer to a more perfect union," he said.

The 55-year-old federal judge was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, and spent much of her childhood in public housing.

Marie Watteau, a spokeswoman for the Hispanic civil rights organization, the National Council of La Raza, says Sotomayor's confirmation is a big step forward for the U.S. Hispanic community and the entire nation.

"It finally shows that we are being represented, we are at the table," she said. "We came out and voted in record numbers in November, and now we have a Supreme Court justice. So it really is showing the strength of our community in this country."

Some Republican lawmakers disagreed with President Obama's statement, when he nominated Sotomayor, that empathy was one quality that would enhance her performance on the bench.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says excessive empathy could lead to unfair rulings. "Empathy is a fine quality," he said. "But in a courtroom, it is only good if the judge has it for you."

Other Republicans opposed Sotomayor's nomination because she had said several years ago that her ethnicity would make her a better jurist than a white male.

Marie Watteau says Sotomayor's experience, not her ethnic background, will serve her well on the Supreme Court.

"I think she will be a good justice because she has 30 years of extensive in the law, and as is evident in her poise and thoughtful appearance before the [Senate] Judiciary Committee, she will bring that compelling life story and all that experience and a dedication to the Constitution and the rule of law," she said.

Sotomayor will replace retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal named by a Republican president. She is not expected to change the ideological balance of the Court.