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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (AP/Photo by Susan Walsh)

Committee OKs Sotomayor

Supreme Court | A dozen Democrats and one Republican move President Obama's nominee one step closer to confirmation

WASHINGTON-In a 13-6 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday gave its stamp of approval for Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, inching President Obama's choice one step closer to becoming the nation's first Hispanic justice on the high court. The stage is now set for the full Senate to vote on her nomination as soon as next week.

Sotomayor received only one vote from a Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Six other GOP committee members said Sotomayor's résumé and background rising from a Bronx housing development to become a federal judge were not enough to gain their support. They used their final statements to again highlight Sotomayor's controversial speeches and court cases, including her claim that a "wise Latina woman" could reach better conclusions than a white male, and added that her testimony at the hearings raised more questions than answers.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said 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?"

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In supporting Sotomayor, Sen. Graham said, "I'm deciding to vote for a woman I would not have chosen."

He added that he decided to vote for Sotomayor because of her judicial record.

"I found that she is extremely well-qualified," Graham said, "and can be no worse than [retiring Justice David] Souter from our [Republican] point of view."

Among the arguments that Republicans again raised against Sotomayor were her views on the influence of international law in America. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said she made disturbing contradictory statements during and after the hearings.

During the hearings, Sotomayor stated she would not use foreign law to interpret the Constitution or American statutes. But in later written responses to questions, she said, "In limited circumstances, decisions of foreign courts can be a source of ideas informing our understanding of our own constitutional rights."

Democrats countered that Sotomayor, questioned during a week that saw 4,000 visitors sit in on the hearings, did not reveal a tendency for bias during her answers.

"She has shown before us judicial temperament," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "I find no example of infidelity to the law. I found no example of her not following precedent."

Grassley said his vote 20 years ago to confirm the liberal Justice Souter, who Sotomayor is replacing, came back to haunt him after Souter talked during his confirmation hearing about courts "filling vacuums" in the law: "I've asked several Supreme Court nominees about courts filling vacuums at their hearings. [Sotomayor's] 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."

Sotomayor's nomination will now be sent to the full Senate, which is expected to confirm her before August 7.

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