Not So Fast

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Senate Republicans are clearly not psyched about holding Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing the week of July 13. 

Senator Judiciary Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions:
We need to examine the record of 3,500 probably more than 4,000 cases. In addition, she has given a lot of speeches and written law review articles and those need to be analyzed because make no mistake about it: this is the only time, the only opportunity this Congress and the American people have to play a role in what would turn out to be a lifetime appointment, a federal bench of independence and unaccountability for the rest of her life. So I think it is important we do this thing and we do it right. I believe from what we know today the timeframe that is set forth is unrealistic. More than that, it’s not necessary. Let’s do this right. Take our time.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:
During the Senate’s considerations of both the Roberts and Alito nominations, we heard a lot from our Democratic colleagues about how the Senate was not a rubber stamp. Not a rubber stamp. And about how it was more important to do it right than do it fact. Now, if that was a good standard, I would suggest to our colleagues, just a few years ago, why would it not be a good standard today?

They are so unhappy, reports Senator Chuck Schumer, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship, that they may well do something about it:

I would urge my colleagues on the other side to reconsider. I’ve been told at least on my subcommittee, no one’s going to participate in meetings or anything. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I hope it isn’t. That there’s going to be an attempt to just close down the Judiciary Committee on all the important issues we face.

I called the committee and asked them if, in fact, a G.O.P. boycott – if it happens – could shut down committee business. It turns out that there’s little they can do to postpone the committee hearing – their presence is not required for the hearing, nor, indeed, for the committee’s executive sessions where a minimum quorum of 10 members is needed: there are 12 Dems on the committee. But, that said, under the committee’s rule #4, known as the filibuster rule, that if a member moves to end debate and call for a vote and a member objects the committee would move to an immediate roll call vote and in order to overcome that objection at least one member of the minority party must vote with the majority. In other words if they really want to go to the mattresses, they could.

There is a history of reporting out Supreme Court nominees even if, as with Clarence Thomas, the committee’s vote is tied, or, as with Robert Bork, the committee’s recommendation is negative. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, when asked about G.O.P. unhappiness, said he told Sessions last week of his intended dates and even pushed the hearing back a week to give the minority more time. Asked if there’s any way he’d move the hearing date again he replied a terse: “No.” So, the question is, will the G.O.P. put their money where their mouth is and move to block Sotomayor out of committee? Doubtful. But we’ll know soon enough if they will be boycotting the committee: the panel has a hearing tomorrow. Let’s see who shows up.