In another milestone in America's history, Judge Sonia Sotomayor became the U.S. Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice today after the Senate confirmed her nomination with a 68-to-31 vote.
The victory for the Obama administration came in the face of staunch Republican opposition, who continued to question Sotomayor's position on gun rights, property rights, and affirmative action.
"This is a wonderful day for Judge Sotomayor and her family, but I also think it's a wonderful day for America," President Barack Obama said.
The near party line vote reflected a confirmation process divided along party lines. No Democrats voted against Sotomayor and all but 9 Republicans voted against her confirmation.
Earlier this morning, senators presented closing arguments for the nomination of Sotomayor, a 55-year-old federal appeals court judge. While Democrats praised her as a fair and impartial judge, Republicans portrayed her as a judicial activist.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said he wasn't convinced that Sotomayor would assure that every American would receive equal justice under the law.
"This is the most fundamental test for any judge and all the more so for those who would sit on our nation's highest court, where a judge's impulses and preferences are not subject to review. Because I'm not convinced that Judge Sotomayor would keep this commitment, I cannot support her nomination," said McConnell.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said critics were ignoring Sotomayor's long record of "judicial modesty and restraint, a record made over 17 years on the federal bench."
But not all Republicans opposed the confirmation.
Republicans who backed Sotomayor's nomination included: Ohio's George Voinovich, Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg, Indiana's Richard Lugar, Missouri's Kit Bond, Florida's Mel Martinez, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and Tennessee's Lamar Alexander.
Sotomayor, who will replace the now-retired Justice David Souter, will be the 111th person and third woman to sit on the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is expected to administer the oath of office to Sotomayor Saturday, and the court will hold a formal ceremony Sept. 8.
- See photographs from the Sotomayor confirmation hearings.
- Read about Sotomayor's 13 most notable decisions.
- Check out political cartoons about the Sotomayor confirmation.