Daily Video

August 6, 2009

Senate Debates Sotomayor Confirmation

By the end of Wednesday’s Senate debate over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, her confirmation was all but certain with nearly all Senate Democrats and at least seven Republicans saying they would vote for her.

President Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Court after Justice David Souter announced he would retire. If confirmed, Sotomayor will be the third female and first Latino justice on the bench.

Many Republicans, however, have expressed concern that Sotomayor would become a liberal activist on the bench.

NewsHour Capitol correspondent Kwame Holman reports on the debate from the Hill.

Quotes

“I believe her view, as expressed in her panel’s Maloney v. Cuomo opinion, of whether the Second Amendment applies against state and local governments is too narrow and contrary to the founders’ intent. But the confirmation process is not the proper place to re-litigate this question, nor is Judge Sotomayor’s judicial record on this issue outside the mainstream.” – Senator Mel Martinez, R – Florida

“Sonia Sotomayor’s ethnicity or gender alone does not indicate what sort of Supreme Court justice she will be. Rather, it is Judge Sotomayor’s experience and record that more fully informs us. The breadth and depth of Judge Sotomayor’s experience makes her uniquely qualified for the Supreme Court.” – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D – New York

“The question is, what kind of judge will [Sotomayor] be on the Supreme Court, where her decisions are no longer reviewed by a higher court, as they were as a federal district court or court of appeals justice? The question is, will she be the judge she has been as a lower court judge, making decisions which by and large have been in the mainstream, with some notable exceptions which I’ve talked about, or will she be un-tethered? Will she be the Judge Sotomayor of some of her more radical speeches and writings, which cause me concern?” – Senator John Cornyn, R – Texas

Warm Up Questions

1. What is the role of the Supreme Court?

2. Who is Sonia Sotomayor? Why does she need to be confirmed by the Senate?

Discussion Questions

1. What qualities do you think are important for a Supreme Court justice to have?

2. If confirmed, Sotomayor would be the first person of Hispanic descent and the third woman to sit on the Supreme Court. Do you believe it is important to have a diverse Supreme Court? Why?

3. Some Republicans worry that Sotomayor will be an activist judge. What is an “activist” judge? Do you agree or disagree that this is a worrisome quality for a Supreme Court justice? Why or why not?

4. Use this lesson plan to explore how the Supreme Court affects your life:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/teachers/lessonplans/history/scotus_function.html

And these lesson plans to look at the confirmation process

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/teachers/lessonplans/socialstudies/confirm2_7-20.html

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

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