Judiciary panel delays Sotomayor vote; Leahy expects confirmation

Senator Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary chairman, said his panel would vote on Sotomayor’s nomination on July 28 and expressed confidence she would win confirmation by a bipartisan vote of the full Senate in time for the Supreme Court’s earlier-than-usual first meeting Sept. 9.

His prediction came as Senator Susan Collins of Maine became the latest Republican to commit to voting for President Obama’s first high-court pick.

“I know that I will not agree with every decision Justice Sotomayor reaches on the court, just as I disagree with some of her previous decisions,’’ Collins said. But she also believes Sotomayor “understands the proper role of a judge and is committed to applying the law impartially without bias or favoritism.’’

Senators Richard Lugar of Indiana, Mel Martinez of Florida, and Olympia Snowe of Maine have all said they would vote for the 55-year-old federal appeals court judge, while some of the most conservative Republicans, including minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have said they’ll oppose her.

Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, said yesterday he will vote against Sotomayor because she refused to say during her confirmation hearings that the Second Amendment right to bear arms binds states as well as the federal government – an issue on which the Supreme Court has yet to rule. He said Sotomayor “shows an alarming hostility toward law-abiding gun owners across the country,’’ and accused her of having an “aversion to impartiality.’’