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Lawmakers Push Sotomayor for Views on Critical Issues

Sonia Sotomayor faced new questioning from lawmakers Wednesday. Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy and Sen. Charles Grassley give their take on the hearings.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now for their take on Judge Sotomayor's testimony so far, two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: the Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

    First, Senator Leahy, I assume you still personally favor the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor?

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), Vermont: I do. The Supreme Court's going to come in for an extraordinary hearing, a very unusual hearing in September. She will be on the Supreme Court when they come in.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Senator Grassley, where do you stand right now?

    SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), Iowa: Well, I stand where I stand on most nominees. I wait until the hearing is over. Otherwise, there's no point in participating in a hearing if you've already got your mind made up.

    And I'm not criticizing Senator Leahy for his saying that he would vote for her, but I think I have a responsibility to review the whole record. We still have two other panels that are going to present. I don't expect them to distract very much, if at all, from her hearings, but I think we ought to review the whole record. And we'll probably have a week or 10 days to do that before she comes up on the floor or even before our committee.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Have you heard anything — yes, go ahead.

  • SEN. PATRICK LEAHY:

    I was going to say, I'd agree with Chuck Grassley that we should review her whole record, but here's a woman who's been involved in 3,000 cases. She's had more extensive record, both as a trial judge and a court of appeals judge, than any nominee, Democratic or Republican, for over 50 years.

    That's where her record is. And all that's been available to every single senator to read. So far, those 3,000 cases, I think she's only been asked about a dozen or so, and over and over and over again.

    I've read the cases. I've listened to her answers in those dozen or so cases she's been questioned about. As a lawyer, I have a pretty easy job making up my mind.

  • SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY:

    Can I add to what he said?

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Yes, sir.

  • SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY:

    Just in case I left an impression of her qualifications to be on the Supreme Court, the academic ones, her career on the court for over a decade, her being a prosecutor and a private-sector lawyer, I don't think anybody's raised any questions about her qualifications.

    There's been distraction from her legal jurisprudence by speeches she's given that have raised some concerns. The president raised some of these concerns initially among some of us because of the word "empathy."

    And, quite frankly, all we're trying to do is satisfy ourselves that, as a justice, she's not going to be making decisions as an activist judge based upon these speeches, but upon the precedent that the court set or to what extent would she change precedent.