Senator Chuck Grassley’s office announced today that he will vote against confirming Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I’ve posted Grassley’s statement after the jump. The gist is, he acknowledges Sotomayor’s “credentials on paper” but has unanswered questions about her judicial philosophy. He doesn’t trust her to apply the law without regard for her “personal biases and prejudices.” He also disliked “her lack of clear and direct answers to simple questions regarding the Constitution” during her confirmation hearings. For the last 20 years, Supreme Court nominees have tried to avoid answering specific questions about issues that are likely to come before the court.
Grassley’s opening statement during Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings expressed concern about some of her speeches, including the infamous “wise Latina” remark. He had some contentious exchanges with the judge in subsequent days.
Grassley voted against confirming Judge Sotomayor for the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998, but he said last month that he could not remember why.
Most Senate Republicans plan to vote against Sotomayor, but at least five have said they will support her confirmation: Richard Lugar of Indiana, Mel Martinez of Florida, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
UPDATE: Iowa Democratic Party chairman Michael Kiernan’s statement is also after the jump.
LATE UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 on Tuesday to confirm Sotomayor, sending her nomination to the full Senate.
TO: Reporters and Editors
FR: Beth Levine, for Senator Grassley
RE: Sonia Sotomayor nomination
DA: July 27, 2009
Senator Chuck Grassley today released the following comment regarding his decision to vote against the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court.
“I’ve had the opportunity to vote on many judges and Justices since becoming a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We confirmed a great number of them. I had hoped to be able to vote for Judge Sotomayor to be the next Justice on the Supreme Court, but after a thorough review of the hearing record and her cases, speeches and writings, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot support Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.
“My vote must be based on the nominee’s respect for and adherence to the Constitution and judicial restraint. I question if Judge Sotomayor will be able to set aside personal biases and prejudices to decide cases in an impartial manner and in accordance with the Constitution.
“At her confirmation hearing, I asked specific questions about the property rights of private citizens afforded by the Fifth Amendment. My colleagues asked detailed questions about the now famous Ricci case, the right to privacy and the Second Amendment right to bear arms. I was not convinced that Judge Sotomayor understands the rights given to Americans under the Constitution, or that she will refrain from expanding or restricting those rights based on her personal preferences. I am not certain that Judge Sotomayor won’t allow those personal beliefs and preferences to dictate the outcome of cases before her. There’s no question that nominees have become quite adept at dodging our questions, but her lack of clear and direct answers to simple questions regarding the Constitution were troubling. Some of her answers were so at odds with statements she has made over the years, that it was difficult to reconcile them.
“Nearly 20 years ago, then Judge David Souter talked during his confirmation hearing about courts “filling vacuums” in the law. That concept greatly worried me, because courts should never fill voids in the law left by Congress. Since Justice Souter has been on the Supreme Court, his decisions have proven that he does believe that courts do indeed fill vacuums in the law. My vote has come back to haunt me time and time again. So, I’ve asked several Supreme Court nominees about courts filling vacuums at their hearings. Her lukewarm answer left me with the same pit in my stomach I’ve had with Justice Souter’s rulings that I had hoped to have cured with his retirement, and reinforced my concerns with her hearing testimony, cases and speeches.
“Only time will tell which Sonia Sotomayor will be on the Supreme Court. Is it the judge who proclaimed that the court of appeals is where “policy is made,” or is it the nominee who pledged “fidelity to the law?” Is it the judge who disagreed with Justice O’Connor’s statement that a wise woman and a wise man will ultimately reach the same decision, or is it the nominee who rejected President Obama’s empathy criteria?
“There’s no doubt that Judge Sotomayor has the credentials on paper to be a Justice on the Supreme Court. But, her nomination hearing left me with more questions than answers about her judicial philosophy, and I cannot support her nomination.”
Chairman Michael Kiernan on Sen. Grassley’s decision to vote ‘NO’ on Sotomayor
Posted: July 27th, 2009
Statement of Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan on Sen. Grassley’s decision to vote ‘no’ on Sotomayor confirmation
I am disappointed to learn Sen. Charles Grassley has decided to join a partisan battle instead of using Iowa common sense when it comes to the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By voting ‘no’, Sen. Grassley signals he’s out of touch with Iowans and more interested in pleasing Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee than his constituents back home. Like GOP legislators at the Iowa statehouse, Grassley is just another Republican who will spitefully say ‘no’ as often as possible.
Judge Sotomayor is a down-to-earth person who has approached the bench from the real world, not an ivory tower. Instead of big theories, she’s applied the rule of law to the facts of each case in pursuit of justice and fairness for all. Iowans used to be able to talk about Chuck Grassley that way.
I look forward to Judge Sotomayor’s near-certain confirmation despite the obstruction of Sen. Grassley and others in the Republican minority.