| I got a chuckle out of Thomas Beaumont's article in today's Des Moines Register, "Reason for vote against judge still eludes Grassley":
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley said Wednesday he still cannot recall why he opposed Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to a federal appeals court judgeship 11 years ago, even after searching the Congressional Record for answers. [...]
"I want to know why myself. I probably want to know why more than you want to know why," Grassley told reporters Wednesday when pressed to explain his past votes against Sotomayor.
"But we've looked in the record of the committee and the Congressional Record and there's no statement by me. So, I don't know why," he added.
Grassley was one of three Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee and 29 in the Senate to vote against Sotomayor's confirmation to the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in New York.
Grassley's memory lapse prompted me to search for reports on the reasons some Senate Republicans opposed Sotomayor in 1998. I could not find any articles discussing controversial decisions she had made as a district court judge.
I also learned that Sotomayor gave a speech in 1994 containing a statement about a "wise woman" that is similar to her 2001 remark that conservative commentators have been flogging. Greg Sargent reported that "though the 1994 speech was disclosed to Republican Senators as part of her confirmation for Court of Appeals in 1998, there's no sign that anyone objected to it in any way."
So, why did Grassley and 28 other Republican Senators vote against Sotomayor in 1998? My hunch is that the reason Grassley didn't enter a speech into the Congressional Record at the time is the same reason I can't find any reporting on the grounds for opposition to her: Republicans had no legitimate beef with her qualifications or her judicial rulings.
An article by Paul West of the Baltimore Sun supports my hypothesis:
President Bill Clinton's 1997 nomination of Sotomayor to the nation's second highest court was held up for a year by Senate Republican blocking tactics. At the time, analysts said that Republicans did not want her confirmation to go forward because it would put her in line for a Supreme Court seat.
That's the kind of reason I'd want to forget too if I were Grassley.
Senate Republicans used similar blocking tactics against many of Clinton's nominees, hoping to run out the clock on his presidency. They later complained about Democratic "obstruction" of judicial appointments, but at least Democrats gave reasons for opposing the worst George W. Bush nominees (for instance, judicial philosophy or specific decisions as lower-court judges).
To his credit, Grassley told reporters on yesterday's call that he is going into Judge Sotomayor's upcoming confirmation hearings with an open mind. Not that it matters, because Senate Republicans already know that they don't have the votes to block her elevation to the Supreme Court.