[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/28/formal.sotomayor.art.jpg caption="Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination is to be put to a vote in the Judiciary Committee today."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two key Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee announced their opposition to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Friday, a further sign the party's conservative base is uniting against President Obama's first high court pick.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the former chairman of the committee, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, head of the party's Senate campaign committee, announced on the Senate floor their intention to vote against the 55-year-old federal appeals court judge.
Hatch's decision came as something of a surprise. The veteran Republican has voted for every high court nominee in his 32-year Senate career, including President Clinton's two liberal choices, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Hatch had praised Sotomayor's "credentials and experience" and the fact that she would be the first Hispanic justice. But despite the nominee's compelling life story, Hatch said that controversial off-the-bench comments by Sotomayor troubled him.
"I reluctantly, and with a heavy heart, have found that I cannot support her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court," Hatch said in a written statement.
"In truth, I wish President Obama had chosen a Hispanic nominee that all senators could support. I believe it would have done a great deal for our great country. Although Judge Sotomayor has a compelling life story and dedication to public service, her statements and record were too much at odds with the principles about the judiciary in which I deeply believe."
Cornyn candidly admitted that his opposition to Sotomayor could carry political risks in his home state, where one-third of the electorate is Hispanic.
"Voting to confirm a judge - this judge or any judge - despite doubts would certainly be the politically expedient thing to do, but I don't believe it would be the right thing to do," he said on the Senate floor.