By James Gordon Meek
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - Judge Sonia Sotomayor won her first test vote in the Senate Tuesday, taking a major leap closer to becoming the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sotomayor, sending her nomination to the full Senate for a vote in the coming weeks. All 12 Democrats on the panel voted for the Bronx-raised appeals court judge.
Only one of the seven Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), voted "aye."
At the start of the committee's meeting, Sen. Herb Kohl (R-Wisc.) decried the lack of candor from the past three overly-cautious appointees for the high court by Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.
Kohl called it a "familiar pattern" that nominees such as Sotomayor take the "path of least resistance" by limiting their responses to senators' questions, thereby cloaking their personal views.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Sotomayor's speeches - in which she repeatedly suggested her ethnic background make her a wiser jurist than her white male counterparts - were the "polar opposite" of her statements in her confirmation hearings this month.
"I believe she has been a tremendous judge," countered Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
The committee is expected to vote on her nomination later Tuesday, followed by a Senate floor vote next week.
Democrats have a filibuster-proof 60 seats, and five moderate Republicans have said they'll vote for Sotomayor.
- More coverage from the New York Daily News.