It may be the case, as GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham told Sonia Sotomayor on the opening day of her confirmation hearings, that her ascension to the country's highest court is a lock, baring a "meltdown" by the nominee. But that doesn't mean that the minority party won't have tough questions for President Obama's first Supreme Court pick.
Minutes after Monday's hearing wrapped up, the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions, told reporters that the Second Amendment will be a likely focus when the hearings resume Tuesday. "No surprise attacks," the Alabama senator cautioned, adding that the judge's record left him troubled and looking for clarification about her judicial philosophy.
During his opening statement, Sessions said he believes that the country's judicial system is at a "dangerous crossroads" and called some of Sotomayor's past statements "shocking and offensive." He said that her ruling in a weapons case will come under particular scrutiny. Sandy Froman, a National Rifle Association board member and past NRA president, is on the GOP witness list for the hearings.
This year, Sotomayor concurred with a ruling in a case, Maloney v. Cuomo, brought by a New York man who said that a ban on a martial arts weapon constituted an infringement on his right to keep and bear arms. Sotomayor disagreed, noting that states have the authority to regulate weapons under federal law, despite an earlier ruling from the Supreme Court that struck down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia.
The most frequently cited case mentioned by critics of the nominee, involving firefighters from New Haven, Conn., has received much attention but is very unlikely to derail the nomination, one Republican staffer said. Less discussed issues like gun control, which resonate strongly with conservative voters in particular, could provide more traction and, if not sink the nominee, at least allow GOP inquisitors to score political points with constituents back home.