Senate sets July 13 hearing date for Sotomayor

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on the nomination of federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court on July 13, with a goal of having her confirmed by Aug. 6.

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced on the Senate floor Tuesday that he was rejecting Republican requests that the hearings be delayed so that the Republican Party could have more time to examine her record.

"There is no reason to unduly delay consideration of this well-qualified nominee," Leahy said. "Indeed, given the attacks on her character, there are compelling reasons to proceed even ahead of this schedule. She deserves the earliest opportunity to respond to those attacks."

Sotomayor, 54, the first Hispanic nominated to the court, has come under fire from some Republicans — though none in the Senate — for having made remarks that they said smacked of racism. She said in a 2001 speech that a "wise Latina woman" could reach "a better conclusion than a white male."

She's clearly impressed senators, however, as she's conducted lengthy personal visits with dozens of them in recent days. She was back on Capitol Hill on Tuesday — with a fractured ankle from an accident Monday — for more talks.

Some key Republican senators have expressed concern, but most have stopped short of voicing opposition. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he thought that the "wise Latina" comment "was not an isolated incident," while Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah thought that "some of the things that have been said are troubling."

Hatch and other Republican senators said Tuesday that the quick timetable concerned them.

"It's kind of ridiculous to me to say we need to do this in a month," Hatch said.

Leahy disagreed: "Our Republican colleagues say they intend to ask her about her judicial philosophy. It does not take four months to prepare to ask those questions."

More important, he said, he wants a full airing of the racism charges.

"It is not fair for her critics to be calling her racist without allowing her the opportunity to respond. I do not want to see this historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor treated unfairly or less fairly than the Senate treated the nomination of John Roberts."

Chief Justice John G. Roberts was nominated and confirmed in 72 days in 2005.


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