On Sotomayor, Senate Republicans Should Follow John McCain

In the coming days, the Senate will debate the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, culminating in a vote later this week. It appears that a majority of Republicans will oppose her nomination, but in doing so, they must have a consistent message explaining why. Interestingly, they need look no further than John McCain.

Yesterday, in announcing his intention to vote against the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor, the Senator outlined – as clearly and succinctly as anyone has – the conservative rationale for opposing her. His entire statement can be found here, but it is summed up nicely in his closing paragraph:

“Judicial activism demonstrates a lack of respect for the popular will that is at fundamental odds with our republican system of government. And, as I stated earlier, regardless of one’s success in academics and in government service, an individual who does not appreciate the common sense limitations on judicial power in our democratic system of government ultimately lacks a key qualification for a lifetime appointment to the bench. For this reason, and no other, I am unable to support Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.”

THAT is the argument. Her openly activist views do, in fact, disqualify her for the Court. It is not, as some have wrongly stated, enough that she is “qualified” in the academic sense. And it is critical that Republicans echo these sentiments loudly and clearly – because doing so will both beat back false accusations of anti-hispanic bias, and begin to clarify the Republican threshold for Judicial nominees.

It is also critical that the remaining uncommitted Republicans stay on the team. Currently, 27 Republicans are committed no-votes. 6 Republicans (Alexander, Collins, Graham, Lugar, Martinez, and Snowe) have already displayed their disrespect for the Constitution by announcing their support for Judge Sotomayor. That leaves 7 uncommitted members. They are: Barasso, Bond, Ensign, Enzi, Gregg, Murkowski, and Voinovich.

Barasso, Ensign and Enzi are traditionally among the more reliable Senators, but they have not yet announced their opposition. They should know their position by now and that position should be “nay.” And, no-votes from them would get Republicans to 30. That would be an impressive tally given the total of 3 and 9 votes registered against Clinton nominees Ginsburg and Breyer respectively, and would mean that 75% of Republicans opposed Sotomayor’s nomination.

Meanwhile, Senators Bond, Gregg and Voinovich each have a foot out the door and have not always proven as reliable – so Lord only knows how they will vote. That leaves Lisa Murkowski… the newest member of the GOP leadership team. And her vote will be an important early test. Will she follow conservative principle – or will she try to play politics?

We know the outcome of the nomination – but Republicans can use this as a teachable moment to make clear what they require of judicial nominees. John McCain made a great case and his fellow Republicans should follow.