The first day of Senate hearings on the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter’s seat on the Supreme Court was all that Democrat strategists could have hoped: boring.
Sotomayor sat silent for most of the day as senators on the Judiciary Committee gave previews of their concerns, objections, or approval of the nomination. Ranking committee member Jeff Sessions and other conservative senators expressed anxiety about her ability to render impartial decisions in view of her now-infamous “wise Latina” statement from a 2001 speech, while liberal senators spoke in broad terms of her accomplishments and hardscrabble childhood in a Bronx housing project, which she rose above through hard work and education.
In his statement, Republican senator Lindsey Graham cut to the chase: “unless you have a complete meltdown, you’re gonna get confirmed, and I don’t think you will.”
Not even new-minted Democrat senator and veteran comedian Al Franken could lend some levity to the proceedings: his brief statement included nary a pun in its laudatory account of Sotomayor’s lifetime embodiment of the American dream, to the surprised dismay of press in attendance.
Franken’s testimony did, however, include a tired sports metaphor (“level playing field”), handily appropriate for a hearing awash with umpires, balls, and strikes, a la Chief Justice John Roberts.
Sotomayor’s opening statement, delivered right before the committee adjourned foir the day, dwelt heavily on her appreciation for her supportive family and the impressive rise of her career. She referenced her judicial philosophy only once, saying that, “in the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make the law — it is to apply the law.”
Throughout the day, a number of pro-life protesters interrupted the hearing with shouts and questions before Capitol police threw them out of the building. (Though she has ruled on several abortion-related cases, Sotomayor has never clearly articulated her personal stance on abortion). But during Sotomayor’s own opening statement, silence reigned.
The hearings will continue for two more days, and as you follow along on C-Span, SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein has compiled a list of buzzwords for your Senate Nomination Bingo or drinking game of choice. (Nearly all got at least one mention today, a promising start.)