Sotomayor vote freebie for two
John Cornyn’s vote was to be expected. He has moved farther right in Washington than was expected when he went there in 2002, after a relatively moderate tenure as a Texas Supreme Court justice and attorney general.
Plus, Cornyn now chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and three-fourths of his Republican colleagues thought it a good idea to vote against Sotomayor. And, Cornyn was reelected in 2008, so his seat won’t be up for election until 2014.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s “nay” vote against Sotomayor raised some eyebrows, because she has been a more moderate senator than either Cornyn or his predecessor, Phil Gramm.
But with her eyes on the prize of wresting the Republican gubernatorial nomination from Gov. Rick Perry, Hutchison obviously hopes to stay competitive in appealing to those most likely to vote in the GOP primary.
With immigration, predominantly of Hispanics, a prominent Republican issue, Republican voters tend to presume the first Latina on the Supreme Court will favor her race.
And Hutchison and her handlers know most Hispanics are unlikely to show up at a Republican primary polling place. Most vote Democratic – if they vote.
The potential risk for Hutchison is if she does beat Perry in the primary – no longer regarded as inevitable – she’ll have to face some angry Hispanics in November.
Hutchison said Sotomayor, who worked her way out of a housing project in the Bronx through Princeton and Yale Law School “has impressive academic qualifications and an inspiring life story.”
But she voted against her, Hutchison said in a statement issued before the Senate vote, because she isn’t sure Sotomayor shares the senator’s view that the right to bear arms is an individual right.
“I am also concerned about her statements in a speech that the Federal appellate courts are where policy is made,” Hutchison said. “I believe judges should interpret the law, not make it.”
Which was what Sotomayor said during questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Hutchison tried to soften her vote by noting that of the people that she had recommended for nomination to the federal bench, 30 percent were Hispanic.
“I will continue to support the most qualified judges irrespective of race or gender,” Hutchison said.
Tom Schieffer, the former ambassador and president of the Texas Rangers baseball team who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, called Hutchison’s justification “a sad commentary on the bitter partisanship that grips our state and country.
“Three different presidents – two Democrats and one Republican – appointed Judge Sotomayor to every level of the federal bench,” Schieffer pointed out. “The United States Senate has now confirmed her three times.”
(Schieffer didn’t mention that the guy who was to swear Sotomayor in, Chief Justice John Roberts, received a “nay” vote from President Barack Obama in 2005, back when Obama was a senator from Illinois. That is something Republicans repeatedly mention when they are accused of voting on ideology rather than competence.
(Obama, a former professor of constitutional law, said then that Roberts’ education and resume were impressive. But he said he would reluctantly vote against Roberts’ confirmation because, though Roberts said he tried to help defend the weak from the strong, his record in public office had favored the strong.)
The chair of the Texas Democratic Party, Boyd Richie, also joined in the accusations that Hutchison’s vote was driven by her effort not to lose rightward ground to Perry.
“The appointment of a Supreme Court nominee should be about that person’s qualifications – not about Republican primary politics,” Richie said. “ Unfortunately, Sen. Hutchison is more concerned with making politically motivated decisions to compete with Gov. Perry for Republican primary voters than in doing what’s right.”
State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, said Sotomayor’s confirmation is particularly important in Texas, which is expected to be majority Latino in a couple decades.
“(A) vote of confidence for Judge Sotomayor is certain to have historical and long-lasting implications, encouraging more minorities to take a more active role in the political process regardless of party affiliation,” Alonzo said.
Without saying it in so many words, Alonzo also is probably hoping that the sleeping giant Hispanic Democratic voter turnout will happen in 2010.
If it does, it’ll be a first for Texas.