The Senate, in a vote laden with history and partisanship, confirmed Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday as the 111th justice and the first Hispanic to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The confirmation of President Obama's first high court nominee was a milestone for his presidency. But the Senate's nearly 20 hours of debate over Sotomayor this week — and the fact that only nine Republicans voted for her — made clear the divisive contours her nomination had assumed since Obama chose her this spring.
Although the 68 to 31 vote was a GOP defeat, Republicans contended that they had succeeded at framing the confirmation debate in a way that could influence Obama's future nominations throughout the federal judiciary, including to the Supreme Court if vacancies arise.
In particular, Sen Jeff. Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said that Sotomayor and Democratic senators had discarded a standard that Obama and left-leaning legal thinkers have held out: the idea that judges should be guided, in part, by empathy. If Obama nominates other people to courts who believe in that idea, Sessions said, "I don't think that would play well. . . . It could hurt this administration in other areas."
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