Sotomayer’s hearing wraps up, firefighter to be questioned next

Sotomayor drew praise from Republicans and Democrats alike as she was wrapping up her time before the committee at the nationally televised hearing.

Sen Lindsey Graham, described her judicial record as “generally in the mainstream” and said he thought she would keep an open mind on gun rights. Graham, who has said previously he may vote to confirm Sotomayor, said she was “not an activist.”

Another Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, also called Sotomayor’s rulings “pretty much in the mainstream,” although he said her assertions of impartiality at the hearings were strikingly at odds with her past remarks.

“You appear to be a different person almost in your speeches and in some of the comments that you’ve made” before the Judiciary panel, Cornyn said.

Sen Arlen Specter, told Sotomayor, “You’ve done quite an outstanding job as witness,” and talked to her as though he were giving a takeaway message to a future justice.

Sen Tom Coburn, got a direct one-word answer, though, when he asked Sotomayor if she thought the court’s combined rulings on abortion had ended a national controversy that has flared since 1973.

“No,” she said after a brief pause.

Committee chairman Pat Leahy, has said he expects Sotomayor will win some Republican votes, and Graham has dropped several hints he may be one of them.

He was not in the Senate when Sotomayor was confirmed to the appeals court in 1998, but several other Republicans were.

Among them, Sens Robert 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 all voted in favor of her confirmation.

Once she finishes testifying, Republicans plan to call New Haven, firefighter Frank Ricci, who passed a promotion exam only to see the city toss out the results because too few minorities qualified for promotion. His ensuing discrimination complaint gives the GOP another chance to portray Sotomayor as a judge who allows bias to dictate the outcome of a case.

Ricci’s reverse discrimination claim was rejected, and that decision was upheld by Sotomayor and two other appeals court judges. The Supreme Court overturned their ruling late last month.