With Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination having been voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 13-6, she is scheduled to get a floor vote next week where it is expected that she will be easily confirmed.
Resigned to the inevitable, right-wing are doing all they can to spin this as a victory that will pay huge dividends in future elections:
“Republicans can reap significant political benefits by voting against her confirmation and making her an issue in key races next year,” conservative activist Ralph Reed told his supporters in a memo.
Voters will remember that “it is a gun vote, and this was not a judge vote. It was a racial quota vote. She is for quotas,” added Grover Norquist, a leading conservative activist, in an interview.
Norquist said conservatives can paint Sotomayor as a dangerous liberal just like President Barack Obama.
“She tarnishes him a little bit,” said Norquist, who is president of Americans for Tax Reform and a member of the NRA board of directors.
In the Washington Independent, David Weigel provides more insight into this effort:
“The Republican senators did much better than I expected,” said Manny Miranda, the chairman of the Third Branch Conference, a judicial conservative umbrella group that opposed Sotomayor’s nomination largely behind the scenes.
In early June, Miranda had been bearish on the Republican conference, doubtful that it would put up a fight. He called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “limp-wristed” and organized 145 conservative activists to campaign for a filibuster of Sotomayor, which they’re not going to get. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), in announcing his opposition to the nominee, admitted that her confirmation was probably inevitable. Yet they feel like the debate over Sotomayor was as much as a conservative success as it could have possibly been, and they see a chance to give the nominee the lowest level of support from the opposition party since the bruising 1991 fight over Clarence Thomas.
“When we started, I didn’t expect more than 16 ‘no’ votes,” said Miranda. “Now I think we may go as high as 29 votes. We’ve achieved quite a lot.”
“The NRA’s decision to score the vote is a huge statement,” said Curt Levey, director of the Committee for Justice. “They were hesitant to get involved. Even if Sotomayor is eventually confirmed, the fact that the NRA came to realize the importance of Supreme Court nominations in protecting gun rights is a very big deal. The grassroots have been activated.”
Sotomayor is widely expected to be confirmed next week and you’ll notice that all of Miranda’s strident demands that Republicans lead a filibuster against her seem to have disappeared, as have his repeated assertions that any vote on her nomination before the August recess would be glaring failure of Republican leadership:
The mark of failed Republican leadership — already strong-armed by Democrats on hearing scheduling — will certainly be allowing a confirmation vote before the August recess that denies time to senators and to the American people. Republican leaders will fail too if their only goal is to mirror the 22-22 Democrat vote for Judge Roberts and simply deliver 20 Republicans for and 20 against.
Miranda and company had one demand of Senate Republicans: Under no circumstances allow a vote on Sotomayor’s nomination before the August recess. Yet that is exactly what is going to happen and, instead of blasting them for their failure, Miranda is praising them for a job well done because their token opposition will be slightly bigger than he initially imagined.
Why is the Right suddenly so forgiving? Maybe because they knew all along that their efforts weren’t going to stop Sotomayor and they were just trying to pick a fight and look important, which is essentially what Curt Levey admitted to Weigel:
“The goal isn’t to defeat Sotomayor,” explained Levey. “It’s to send enough of a warning shot that future nominees won’t be as hostile to the Constitution.”
The Committee for Justice, for example, developed five ads formatted for television and newspapers, one of which compared Sotomayor’s work for the Puerto Rican Defense Fund to President Obama’s friendship with reformed Weather Underground member Bill Ayers. It got plenty of attention; people clicked through to the committee’s site, and some donated. But TV viewers won’t see that particular attack on their screens. “I don’t think the ad was effective,” Levey admitted. “We’ll run some ads in the final week, but I don’t think we’ll run that ad.”