The battle concerning the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor is heating up. Republicans are badly outnumbered in the Senate and the chances of halting the nomination are not great. Nevertheless, there is much to learn about Sotomayor and much to be gained by a robust discussion of some of her controversial views and of the proper role of the judiciary.
However, Republicans and their conservative allies outside Congress could well fritter away the opportunity, or worse, create a backlash against themselves. There are, I would suggest, four rules for the nomination battle which will go a long way toward preventing both.
First, the conservative foot soldiers would do well to avoid shooting themselves — or the meager Republican forces in the Senate — in the foot. A Politico report provides a prime example:
[I]n an interview with POLITICO, Manuel Miranda — who orchestrated the letter — went much farther, saying that Mitch McConnell should “consider resigning” as Senate minority leader if he can’t take a harder line on President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee.
Miranda accused McConnell of being “limp-wristed” and “a little bit tone deaf” when it comes to judicial nominees.
Miranda, now the chairman of the conservative Third Branch Conference, served as counsel to McConnell’s predecessor, then-Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist. He left that job in 2004 amid allegations that he improperly accessed thousands of memos and emails from Democratic staffers — circumstances McConnell’s supporters recalled as they pushed back hard against.
Such blather not only has the distinction of being wrong — McConnell has reined in his troops from rushing to approve of the nomination and held firm on the potential for a filibuster — but also has the added “benefit” of feeding a distracting media story (“conservatives in disarray!”).
Second, insist that the process be robust and thoughtful. There should be no rush to a vote on a judge who has served seventeen years on the bench, has authored thousands of opinions, has delivered speeches, has written law review articles, and has been an advocate in numerous organizations that impact the judiciary. The president is trying to ram home the confirmation before the August recess but there is no reason to do so. If the same schedule that was utilized for current Justices Roberts and Alito is employed, then the confirmation hearings should begin, not end, in August.