White House gets its wish on Sotomayor hearings

The Senate Judiciary Committee is to begin hearings on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court on July 13, a victory for the White House, which has been pushing for early consideration of President Obama’s nominee.

The hearings would come soon enough to probably allow the full Senate to consider the nomination before the summer recess in August. That would mean that Sotomayor could hire a staff and take her court seat in time to be a full participant in the Supreme Court’s fall term.

Republicans had suggested delaying hearings until September to allow time to study Sotomayor’s record as a judge on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The hearing was announced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who said the July date would give all parties time to prepare.


Several Republican senators took the opposite view.

“July 13 is just not enough time to prepare for a thorough and careful review of Judge Sotomayor’s record and qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said in a statement.

Leahy had pushed for early hearings to allow Sotomayor a forum in which to counter conservative charges that she favored the use of race over the letter of the law.

Some conservatives accused her of being a racist, though one prominent critic who used that word, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, recently recanted.

Senate Republicans, led by Alabama’s Jeff Sessions, have promised cordial but tough confirmation hearings.

Sotomayor has been meeting with senators in recent days and continued those visits Tuesday, despite breaking her ankle in an airport fall Monday.

Also Tuesday, top law enforcement officials, including her former boss, Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau, announced their support of her nomination.