WASHINGTON, D.C. – Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined Democratic colleagues today to offer words of praise for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I am impressed that Judge Sotomayor is someone who knows the Constitution and the law, but who also knows America,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “Her father died when she was a child and she grew up in humble circumstances. Her mother struggled to pay for a set of encyclopedias because she wanted to provide her children with every opportunity to learn.”
The daughter of Puerto Rican parents, Sotomayor, 54, grew up in a Bronx public housing project. Her father died when she was 9 years old, leaving her mother to raise both her and her brother. If appointed, Sotomayor, who has served for more than a decade on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City, would become the nation’s first Hispanic justice.
In remarks this morning, Sotomayor called the nomination “the most humbling honor of my life.”
“Judge Sotomayor would bring to the Supreme Court a unique combination of legal experience as a prosecutor, a private lawyer, a trial judge and an appellate judge,” said Klobuchar, who will take part in the confirmation process as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
“As a federal judge, she also ended the baseball strike in 1995. Anybody who brought baseball back to America deserves our warm consideration,” Klobuchar added.
Democrat Al Franken, still locked in his battle for Minnesota’s remaining Senate seat with Republican Norm Coleman, also issued the following statement on the nomination:
“I want to congratulate Judge Sotomayor on her history-making nomination to the Supreme Court. Confirming a Supreme Court Justice is among the most important responsibilities the Senate has, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I look forward to joining my colleagues as we examine Judge Sotomayor’s qualifications carefully before confirmation. However, it is already clear that President Obama has chosen a remarkable jurist with an impressive record of accomplishment and a life story with which working families can identify.”
Coleman released the following statement: “When debating judges, I was firm that I would use the same standard to evaluate judges under a Democrat president as I would a Republican president. Are they intellectually competent, do they have a record of integrity, and most importantly, are they committed to following the Constitution rather than creating new law and policy? When I am re-elected, I intend to review Judge Sotomayor’s record using this process. Certainly, the nomination of a Hispanic woman to the nation’s highest court is something all Americans should applaud.”
The early Republican response to Sotomayor’s nomination generally has been tepid.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said that he expected “a thorough and fair examination of her background, judicial record and adherence to the Constitution.”
“It will be important to determine if Judge Sotomayor will decide cases based on her own personal feelings and political views, or the bedrock rule of law,” Thune said in a statement. “I look forward to taking the necessary time to review her qualifications and record as a federal judge to ensure she possesses unimpeachable integrity, high intellect, and a commitment to applying the law as it is written, rather than legislating from the bench.”
Upon hearing of her nomination, several conservative groups jumped on a couple of statements that Sotomayor made in the past about how her ethnicity and gender impact her work on the bench and that a “court of appeals is where policy is made.”
Asked today about these statements, Klobuchar said, “The truth is in her opinions and how she has followed the law carefully and that she is a respected jurist.”
Meanwhile, Klobuchar dismissed Sotomayor’s court of appeals comment as basically a joke that she had told to a law school. “If people were judged by what they have said at law schools, I don’t think we’d have any nominees,” Klobuchar said.
Indeed, at the time, Sotomayor followed up the comment by adding, “I know this is on tape, and I should never say that, because we don’t make the law.”
Although Senate Democrats are still one short of the magic 60 votes needed to end a filibuster (which Franken’s vote could provide), Sotomayor’s nomination is not expected to be that close. Sotomayor’s appointments to lower-court positions have previously passed with some Republican support in the Senate. In addition, Sotomayor will be filling the seat left open by Justice David Souter, whose vote reliably swung left.
Still, the White House is preparing for what could be an intense interrogation and pressure by Republicans in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Klobuchar said that while she had not made a final decision she was very positive and “looking forward” to the hearings.
“I am one of two women on the Judiciary Committee, and we have a woman nominee,” Klobuchar said. “So that will be exciting.”
Two other members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation offered their opinions on the nomination as well.
Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, who represents the 5th District, said: “I commend the president’s inspired choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. As the president pointed out, Judge Sotomayor brings more judicial experience to the Court than any of the current judges did when they were nominated.
“Her unprecedented legal and judicial experience has been recognized and confirmed by all. She was nominated as a federal judge by President George H.W. Bush, making her the youngest judge in the Southern District of New York. President Bill Clinton nominated her for the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I am confident the impeccable body of judicial experience that has now been recognized by three presidents will make for an effortless confirmation, and an outstanding career on the highest court of the land.”
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who represents the 6th District, was more cautious in her statement: “Interpreting our Constitution is a tremendous responsibility, and it’s my hope that the president’s nominee will adhere to a true and original interpretation of our nation’s guiding document, as was the founders’ intent. I am certain that we will learn more about this nominee’s legal views throughout the confirmation process.”