28 July 2009

Sotomayor Heads to Safe U.S. Senate Floor Vote

U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor is headed to a pair of floor votes in the U.S. Senate. She cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-6 vote with 12 Democrats and 1 Republican voting in favor of the nominee. All of those voting against the nomination were Republicans.

If all Democrats (and the two independents that caucus with them) vote in favor of the President's nominee, it would take the vote of every single Republican to filibuster to nomination, and the Republicans have already lost the vote of one of the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee. At least five Republican Senators support Sotomayor's nomination on the merits, and several more are committed publicly to not filibustering judicial nominees except in the most exceptional circumstances. Sotomayor's Republican supporters are Senators:

Olympia Snowe, Maine
Susan Collins, Maine
Richard Lugar, Indiana
Mel Martinez, Florida
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina

None of the sixty members of the Democratic caucus have come out against Sotomayor. This confirms earlier reports that Republicans don't have the votes to filibuster Sotomayor's nomination.

Any nominee who can defeat a filibuster vote is almost certain to prevail on a vote on the merits, which requires mere majority support. With the public Republican support that Sotomayor has already received, she would need support from just 46 of 60 Senators who caucus with the Democrats to prevail on the merits, a tally she is likely to far exceed.

She will replace outgoing Justice David Souter, a Republican appointee who is part of the four Justice liberal wing of the Supreme Court. It is widely expected that Sotomayor will initially, at least, be a part of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. The early opportunity that President Obama has had to appoint Sotomayor increases the likelihood that he will be able to make one or more further U.S. Supreme Court appointments during his term as President.

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