Recently turned Democratic Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania holds a key in the upcoming confirmation process for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. In a statement today, Specter not only praised Sotomayor, but also urged the Senate to give her a full and fair confirmation process. Specter’s support all but confirms Sotomayor.
Specter said, “I applaud the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court. While her record suggests excellent educational and professional qualifications, now it is up to the Senate to discharge its constitutional duty for a full and fair confirmation process.”
Specter has usually been a bit more guarded in initial his reaction to potential Supreme Court nominees. Specter gushed over the Roberts nomination, but he promised a comprehensive questioning during the Alito nomination hearing. Specter was initially tepid for Rhenquist and Scalia. I have a hunch that Arlen might be trying to earn his Democratic stripes, and also make people forget about his questioning of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings.
Specter’s statement can be viewed as his attempt to fight off any potential Democratic primary challenge in 2010, but Sotomayor fits what Specter said the Court needed. At a press conference Specter said, “I think another female justice would be a good idea. I think that given the proportion women in our society, 1 out of 9 is underrepresented. But the court could use some diversity along a number of lines.”
The reality here is that if Specter supports Sotomayor, she is all but a lock to be confirmed. It is looking like there won’t be a heated battle over her confirmation. I think she will assure those who are concerned about her empathy, and she will pretty much sail though the confirmation process.
The fact that Sotomayor won’t change the composition of the Court will make her nomination less contentious. In the end, the Democrats already have 60 voters for her, so unless some sort of scandal occurs, she’s as good as in.