The White House says it is essential to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the replacement for Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. The president wants it done before the next court session starts in October. Opponents say the confirmation process takes time and it is important to thoroughly examine her record.
Senator Jeff Sessions is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be leading the Republicans through the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.
Kiran Chetry: You're one of 11 sitting Republican senators who voted against Judge Sotomayor for her current position on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. What was your reasoning then and what do you need to hear from her now to give you the confidence to confirm her?
Jeff Sessions: Well, I think 29 senators voted against her last time. I think there was an unease, maybe about her background and her tendency to activism. We'll have to go back and look at the record and see what most people felt. But...I believe she's entitled to a fair slate now. A clean slate, a fresh start to examine the entire record in context and give her a chance to explain that. But there are some troubling things that are going to have to be inquired into for us to do our job so the American people can know that whoever is on the U.S. Supreme Court will be faithful to the law passed by the people of the United States.
Chetry: One of Judge Sotomayor’s most controversial cases that I’m sure will come up at the confirmation hearing is the so-called New Haven firefighters case. That’s now pending in the Supreme Court. In this ruling, she sided with the city of New Haven, Connecticut after they threw out the results of a promotion test because too many white firefighters and not enough minority firefighters scored high. Critics have been calling that reverse-discrimination. Do you agree?
Sessions: Well we need to look at that. It’s a case she has decided, so it’s fair for us to look at it. We shouldn’t ask her how she's going to rule on cases in the future. So it’s something that will be examined. Those are some tough cases that require real careful legal analysis and to make sure that you're striking the right approach to those cases. So I think it will be an issue that will have to be inquired into.
Chetry: Former Bush adviser, Matthew Dowd, said of Sotomayor's nomination that you have to be careful as GOP senators “because you’ll have a bunch of white males who lead the Judiciary Committee leading the charge taking on an Hispanic woman… It’s a bad visual. It’s bad symbolism for the Republicans.” He goes on to say that Republicans really need the Hispanic vote, a minimum of maybe 40% to be competitive with Democrats. How aggressive do you think Republicans can be going after what would be the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice?
Sessions: Well I committed before we had the nominee that any nominee that came before the committee we were going to give a fair shake to. We’re not going to take advantage of them and misrepresent their records as has been done all too often in the past. I hope that the American people will say this is the best judiciary confirmation hearing that's ever been held and that we really talked about substantive issues. Issues that are important to the country. And we have a responsibility to take that nominee through the various complex and important issues they’ll be involved in. So the American people will have this one opportunity to see them, to test them. Because once confirmed, they have a lifetime appointment. We can't even dock their pay.
Chetry: What it sounds like is you're not putting the filibuster option on the table, are you?
Sessions: Well, you never know on a case like this. I don't feel – I don't sense a filibuster in the works. If the nominee has serious problems, those kinds of things – that might happen. But I would think that we need to all have a good hearing, take our time, and do it right. And then the senators cast their vote up or down based on whether or not they think this is the kind of judge that should be on the court.