I’ve been amused today to watch the anti-Obama Republicans grapple with how they can oppose the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. To understand just how boxed in they are politically, it’s helpful to review their history.
First, GOP President George H.W. Bush nominated Judge Sotomayor to the lower court in 1991. She was confirmed by the Senate in 1992.
President Bill Clinton nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1997. According to the New York Times, an unnamed GOP Senator put a hold on her nomination, successfully stalling it for over a year. The reason for the hold was to make it less likely that President Clinton would later nominate her for the Supreme Court. (The assumption was that if GOP Senators voted for her to go to the appeals court, Clinton could immediately nominate her to the Supreme Court, making it politically difficult, if not impossible, for them to oppose her a year or so later, should a Supreme Court vacancy open up.)
At the time, Rush Limbaugh warned that if confirmed to the Appeals Court, Judge Sotomayor would be put on a “rocket ship” to the Supreme Court.
Eventually though, in 1998, 67 Senators ignored Limbaugh and voted for her elevation to the Appeals Court, including these six Republicans:
- Thad Cochran of Mississippi
- Susan Collins of Maine,
- Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
- Orrin Hatch of Utah
- Richard Lugar of Indiana
- Olympia Snowe of Maine
There are 47 Senators still serving today who voted in that 1998 vote. Collectively they voted to elevate Judge Sotomayor to the Appeals Court by a 36-11 vote.
(Incidentally, both Sen. John Warner and Sen. Chuck Robb, who represented Virginia at the time, voted for Judge Sotomayor in 1998. So did Republicans Bob Bennett, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Lincoln Chafee, Dan Coats, Al D’Amato, Mike DeWine, Pete Domenici, Bill Frist, Rod Grams, Jesse Helms, Jim Jeffords, Connie Mack, Frank Murkowski, Bill Roth, Rick Santorum, Gordon Smith and Ted Stevens.)
But what about Sotomayor’s 1992 confirmation vote? Um, she was confirmed by a unanimous consent of the Senate on August 11, 1992.
So if the Republicans want alienate women and Latinos, I’d say the should try to stop this nomination. And as for the six Republicans who voted for Judge Sotomayor in 1998, I dare you to try to back away from that decision.
And for you Republicans who opposed Judge Sotomayor in 1998 — you 11 — don’t try to pretend that you are going to change your mind this time around by issuing statements saying you’ve got an open mind.
You played games in 1998, we fully expect you to do so this time around, too.
But in 1998, you just had to deal with Bill Clinton, who was weakened politically by your stupid impeachment trial. Now you have to deal with this dude.
I think he’s a bit savvier. What do you think?