It seems many on the conservative side are upset GOP Senators aren’t grilling Sotomayor a little more harshly. They’ve got problems with the “wise Latina” comment and the white firefighters decision, among other things.
All are reasonable criticisms. And all of them don’t matter.
Republicans can’t afford to block Sonia Sotomayor. Not because of who she is, her qualifications or Obama’s popularity raiting, but because of who she isn’t replacing on the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor was chosen to replace Justice Souter. Souter has long been a consistent liberal vote on the Court. And so will Sotomayor. Nothing changes.
Now, if it was the infamous swing voting Justice Kennedy retiring, then it would be a different story. Judicial organizations would be popping out of the woodwork to stop the Wise Latina. Commercials would be on TV. Mail campaigns would be coordinated to engage with Senators.
Make no mistake, when Justice Kennedy retires, Republicans will fight tooth and nail to ensure a moderate Justice is appointed. And that’s why they can’t be perceived, once again, as the Party of No for this nomination. If Republicans pulled out all the stops they would lose enormous political capital for the hearings of Kennedy’s replacement. Democrats could charge them once again with obstructing for the sake of obstructing, rather than doing their duty to ratify the President’s choice. And Obama would get the liberal judge he wants to become the incredibly important swing justice.
But by capitulating on Sotomayor, they have lived to fight another day. They are seen as critical, but reasonable. And that provides them much better ammo when a real fight is on their hands.
The question now becomes, when does Kennedy retire? One has to think he would need to make his decision by May of next year in order to give Obama and the Democrat controlled Congress the time necessary for hearings before campaign season begins in August. This is a dangerous situation for Obama, because as his ratings continue to sink, so does the trust people have in his judgement. And having that political capital is incredibly important when selecting a nominee to the Supreme Court.
Now, if Kennedy waits, Obama may lose the 60 vote majority in the US Senate, thereby forcing his hand to select someone of a more moderate nature.
As per usual in politics, timing is everything.