Though a majority of Senate Republicans opposed the 1998 nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals, President Obama’s expected choice to replace retiring Justice David Souter did win several key Republican votes that year, which could prove critical in this year’s confirmation fight.
Sotomayor was confirmed to her current seat by the U.S. Senate on October 2, 1998, by a vote of 67-29. The New York judge won the support of 25 Republicans in 1998, including eight senators who still serve today. They are: Sens. Bob Bennett of Utah, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania also supported the Sotomayor nomination in 1998. He was a Republican at the time, but switched to the Democratic party earlier this year. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was not a senator in 1998, but her father, former GOP Sen. Frank Murkowski, also voted for Sotomayor.
If Sotomayor is able to maintain the support of just a few of those GOP senators this year, Senate Republicans would face an almost impossible task in defeating her nomination, even by filibuster, which requires 40 votes. Currently, Republicans hold 39 senate seats.