With the first of Sonia Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearings happening today at 10 a.m., here is our liveblog as Republicans and Democrats get their first change to question President Obama's nominee publicly, in front of news cameras in the hearing room.
Watch the hearing live on C-SPAN.
Things to watch for: with the hearing attracting so much media attention, which senators will grandstand most extravagantly for or against Sotomayor? Likely candidates on the Republican side are the committee's more conservative members--Sens. John Cornyn,
Lindsey Graham (*Graham, a backer of John McCain, is typically more moderate than his colleagues listed here. See Matthew Cooper's post on Graham at the hearing.), and Tom Coburn. Jon Kyl, who has held a leadership post within the GOP caucus, could also be a good candidate.
And: Frank Ricci, the lead plaintiff in Sotomayor's controversial firefighters/affirmative action ruling will be a witness for Republicans; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will appear, called by the committee's Democrats.
10:00: Sotomayor: "If I introduced everyone who was familylike, we'd be here all morning."
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) tells her to introduce whomever she wants; the record will be kept open for later additions. Sotomayor then introduces her immediate family, points to "god children and dear friends" in the rest of the row.
10:03: Leahy's opening remarks:
Leahy uses a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote Obama is fond of: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Leahy cites social and civil rights advancements throughout America's history and says Sotomayor's addition could be the next step in that chain of progress. He reviews her personal story--which is compelling--raised by her mother, a nurse, in the South Bronx and attending Princeton in its third class to include women.
10:08: Leahy cites examples of prejudice in previous Supreme Court confirmation hearings; he asks senators on his committee to refrain from any such behavior.
"The confirmation of Louis Brandeis...was a struggle fire with anti-semitism and charges he was a radical," noting that the commentary of the time included "questions about the Jewish mind."
"We are in a different era," Leahy said, calling on his colleagues to reject calls from "partisans and outside pressure groups" to oppose her.
"Let no one demean this extraordinary woman," he said.
Leahy closes by praising Sotomayor's understanding of the law.
10:15: Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) begins by acknowledging the personal significance of today's hearing for Sotomayor. He then warns about the enormous power of Supreme Court justices: "Just five members can declare the meaning of our Constitution."
Sessions warns against a system in which a judge is "free to push his or her political/social agenda."
"We have seen judges force their political and social agenda on this nation."
Sessions lists decisions he deems activist, including habeas corpus rights for terrorism suspects. He blasts President Obama's mention of "empathy" as a standard for a judge, saying no senator should vote for someone for that qualification.
He then takes on specific statements and ruling by Sotomayor, including her "wise Latina" quote and her statement before a Duke University panel that appeals courts are "where policy is made."
10:23: Her decision on white firefighters alleging discrimination in a New Haven affirmative action policy--the lead plaintiff of which will be a witness today for the Republican side of the committee--draws much of his focus.
"It seems to me that in Ricci, Judge Sotomayor's empathy for one group of firefighters turned out to be prejudice against another," Sessions said.
10:31: Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) warns Sotomayor that, while judges often say they won't discuss specific issues, since court cases are individual, those issues are important to discuss.
"I recognize this concern, but I hope you recognize our need to have discussions about these important issues," Kohl said.
Kohl then says it would be impossible for Sotomayor to separate her own experiences from her decision making in court.
10:35: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a longtime member of the committee, does not open with such a screed. It appears Hatch could be among the friendlier Republicans on the committee for Sotomayor.
He says the hearings will be "respectful and substantive."
"The Senate owes some deference to the president's qualified nominees," Hatch says.
10:40: Hatch cites Obama's opposition to judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown, in which the president cited impartiality as a qualification.
He also points to former nominees that have endured political attacks during their confirmation processes.
"Some of the things that have been said about Judge Sotomayor have been intemperate and unfair," Hatch said, going on to cite "newspaper reports about left wing groups supporting Judge Sotomayor... now engaged in a smear campaign against" Frank Ricci.
If that is true, Hatch says, it is "beneath the dignity" that Sotomayor's confirmation process demands.
Hatch asks whether a judge should be objective and impartial, or subjective and sympathetic. "Judge Sotomayor's nomination raises these and many other issues," Hatch says.
10:44: A member of the audience begins shouting during Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) opening statement, as she praises Sotomayor. It's unclear what the man was saying; given Feinstein's position atop the Senate Intelligence Committee, it's possible his comments had nothing to do with Sotomayor...
Leahy bangs the gavel and shouts him down: "The police will remove that man."
Leahy says: "I will direct the police to remove anybody who does any kind of outburst either for or against the nominee, for or against any member of this committee."
Sessions breaks in to thank Leahy for his "strong words."
10:50: Feinstein says Sotomayor is experienced and well-studied in the law. She expects Sotomayor will bring her experience and philosophy to bear in the Court, "and that will only do one thing, and that is strengthen this institution."
10:52: Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) says the Senate should determine whether Sotomayor will "dispense justice without bias or prejudice."
Grassley says that's a judge's job in society. "But some people don't see it that way," Grassley said.
"They want justices to enact their political and social agenda," he said.
10:56: The Republican begins to criticize Obama's so-called "empathy standard" and some of Sotomayor's statements.
"This empathy standard is troubling to me," Grassley said. "I'm concerned that judging based on empathy is really just legislating from the bench."
Mentions her "wise Latina" quote--says that and other statements raise concerns about impartiality.
10:59: Sotomayor looks concerned, and perhaps slightly pained, as Grassley criticizes her--the same way she's looked as the committee's other Republicans have voiced their concerns. Her expression doesn't change much; it looks like a half-wince. She appears serious, slightly uncomfortable at times, though not rattled in any way.
11:06: Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) brings up the "wise Latina" remark, which Sotomayor make in a 2001 speech at UC Berkeley.
"I believe that no one who reads the whole Berkeley speech could come to that conclusion [that Sotomayor is a racist]," Feingold said.
11:13: For the committee's Republicans, it's been all about criticizing Obama's "empathy standard," accusing of a subjectivist view on how judging should work. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) continues that trend.
"I respectfully submit that President Obama is simply outside the mainstream in his statements about how judges should decide cases," Kyl says.
"The question for this committee is whether Judge Sotomayor agrees," Kyl said.
Some of Sotomayor's statements outside the courtroom suggest she does agree with Obama that judges should judge based on their "gut" or "heart," Kyl said.