A Smooth Road Ahead for Sotomayor

Democrats appear to have the votes to put her on the Supreme Court.

By + More

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham perhaps best summed up the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, noting on the first day of the proceedings that barring a "meltdown" by the nominee, she was all but assured of confirmation to the nation's highest court. But Graham and others in the GOP were clearly not enamored of President Obama's pick. "You have said some things that just bug the hell out of me," Graham confessed, pointing to several of her past speeches.

[See photos of the hearings]

But despite his annoyance, by the time Sotomayor concluded her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham hinted strongly that he would support her. How many other GOP votes Sotomayor may secure is still unclear, though several others seemed inclined to back her. The committee vote on the nomination of the first Hispanic to the court is slated for Tuesday, though GOP members could request a one-week delay. In the end, though, the final committee tally is largely irrelevant because Democrats enjoy a 60-to-40 vote advantage in the full Senate. If the nomination passes the committee, the full Senate is expected to vote in late July or early August.

The hearings' most contentious moments involved two racially charged issues. Critics focused repeatedly on a Supreme Court race-discrimination ruling this year that overturned an appellate court decision in which Sotomayor participated. The case, involving the promotion of a group of firefighters from Connecticut, nearly all of whom are white, was one of the most closely watched affirmative action cases in recent years.

Another issue, raised dozens of times over the first few days of the hearings, was a statement Sotomayor made in a 2001 speech that a "wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences" might make better rulings than a white male.

Democrats, for their part, were overwhelmingly positive about the nomination. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of only two women on the Judiciary Committee, noted that it was just the third time in history that a woman had been nominated to the high court. "With excellent judgment and a sense of humility, I believe you can be a justice for all of us," she said.

Sotomayor, who appeared collected throughout the hours of questioning, said that despite objections raised by her critics, she is fair to those who appear before her in court. "My record shows that at no point or time have I ever permitted my personal views or sympathies to influence the outcome of a case," she said. And barring any meltdown, she'll get the chance to extend that record to the Supreme Court.