Posts Tagged ‘Sonia Sotomayor’
Friday, February 5th, 2010

Eric Holder (DOJ)

White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel opposed Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the alleged 9/11 plotters in federal court, arguing that it would alienate Republicans who support closing Guantanamo Bay but favor military commissions,  according to this story by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.

Emmanuel was particularly concerned about losing the support of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a proponent of military commissions who had been key ally on closing the military-run prison and had lent a hand on other matters, including the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Mayer writes.

“There was a lot of drama,” an “informed source” told Mayer. “Rahm felt very, very strongly that it was a mistake to prosecute the 9/11 people in the federal courts, and that it was picking an unnecessary fight with the military-commission people.”

The source went on, “Rahm had a good relationship with Graham, and believed Graham when he said that if you don’t prosecute these people in military commissions I won’t support the closing of Guantánamo. . . . Rahm said, ‘If we don’t have Graham, we can’t close Guantánamo, and it’s on Eric!’

A bipartisan group of senators led by Graham unveiled legislation earlier this week that would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to prosecute 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his alleged coconspirators in federal court.

The White House, however, continues to support civilian trials, and Holder said he will press forward with them, though his options are limited by a growing NIMBY mentality.

Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg withdrew his support for holding the trials in city, dealing the plan a fatal blow. Officials in Northern Virginia, where al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui was prosecuted, have been outspoken in their opposition to hosting another terrorism trial.

The New Yorker story also documents Holder’s reaction to surging criticism of his decision to leverage the criminal justice system against the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane.

“What we did is totally consistent with what has happened in every similar case” since 9/11, he told Mayer. “There’s a desire to ignore the facts to try to score political points. It’s a little shocking.”

Earlier this week, Holder sent a pointed letter to Republican senators in which he accepted responsibility for the handling of the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Holder noted that alleged terrorists apprehended in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001, have been detained under federal criminal law. He emphasized that “no agency supported the use of law of war detention” in high-level meetings immediately after Abdulmutallab’s arrest.

The letter was the strongest push-back yet from the Justice Department. Holder’s role was already known, as were his arguments supporting his decisions, but the Attorney General suffered weeks of hammering by Republicans before speaking up. (Several of his supporters praised the move but told Main Justice they wish he would have acted sooner.)

The New Yorker story is full of other great details, a few of which we’ve highlighted below.

Holder on toughness:

Some of Holder’s friends, who call him Mr. Nice Guy, wonder if he is as tough as some of these predecessors. “Attorneys General should be feared,” one legal observer told me. “They have incredible power. Holder makes correct decisions on the law, but he’s not aggressive.” Holder bristles at such characterizations. His Secret Service code name is Fidelity, but he joked, “I’d like something like The Hammer.”


Late last month, at home, in Northwest Washington, Holder addressed those who have suggested that he and Obama are too weak to take on terrorism. “This macho bravado—that’s the kind of thing that leads you into wars that should not be fought, that history is not kind to,” he said. “The quest for justice, despite what your contemporaries might think, that’s toughness. The ability to subject yourself to the kind of criticism I’m getting now, for something I think is right? That’s tough.” He paused, and added, “This is something that can get a rise out of me, the notion that somehow Eric Holder and Barack Obama, this Administration, is not tough. We have the welfare of the American people in our minds all the time. We’ll fight our enemies, and we’ll do that which is necessary, and we won’t turn our backs on the values and traditions that have made this country great. That is what is tough.”

The Holder Effect:

As Eric Fehrnstrom, [Scott] Brown’s political consultant, put it to me recently, the “most potent political issue” in the [U.S. Senate] race was voter opposition to the Justice Department’s decision to extend customary legal protections to suspected terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect who on Christmas Day attempted to detonate a bomb on a Northwest Airlines passenger plane bound for Detroit.


Holder’s unpopular positions on terrorism issues have frustrated Obama’s advisers. The lawyer close to the Administration said, “The White House doesn’t trust his judgment, and doesn’t think he’s mindful enough of all the things he should be,” such as protecting the President from political fallout. “They think he wants to protect his own image, and to make himself untouchable politically, the way [former Attorney General Janet] Reno did, by doing the righteous thing.”

Taking on the Cheney Clan:

Holder tried to address his critics with lawyerly detachment. Dick Cheney had equated Holder’s approach to handling terrorism with giving “aid and comfort to the enemy”—the legal definition of treason. Holder said of Cheney, “On some level, and I’m not sure why, he lacks confidence in the American system of justice.” He added that he had seen documents making clear that Cheney’s office was the driving force behind the Bush Administration’s most controversial counterterrorism policies, especially those sanctioning brutal interrogations. He said of Cheney, “I think he’s worried about what history’s judgment will be of the role that he played in making decisions about everything from black sites to enhanced interrogation techniques.” Holder said that he doesn’t know Elizabeth Cheney, but noted, with a laugh, “She’s clearly her father’s daughter.”

Taking on Rudy Giuliani:

Holder told me that he was “distressed” that people “who know better” were claiming that the courts were not up to the job of trying terrorists. He added that he found it “exceedingly strange” to hear this argument from Giuliani, who had been a zealous prosecutor. “If Giuliani was still the U.S. Attorney in New York, my guess is that, by now, I would already have gotten ten phone calls from him telling me why these cases needed to be tried not only in civilian court but at Foley Square,” Holder said.

Walk With Me:

On January 5th, Obama held a national-security meeting in the White House Situation Room to review how the Administration had failed to detect and prevent the Christmas Day plot. Afterward, Holder said, Obama asked him to walk back to the Oval Office with him. “We talk about these matters,” Holder said. “The decisions are, relatively, mine. I take responsibility for them. But these are things where he is kept in the loop, and the direction he gives obviously has to be factored into any decision I make.” Holder declined to reveal details of their recent discussion but said, “We are on the same page.” He added, “He recognizes that being Attorney General at this time is not the easiest job in the world.”

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Lawmakers sparred with National Football League officials and player representatives today at a hearing in the House Judiciary panel’s Courts and Competition Policy Subcommittee about the implications of a Supreme Court case that will assess how antitrust laws apply to the NFL.

The Supreme Court heard arguments last week in American Needle v. NFL, a case that poses the question of whether the NFL is a collection of 32 teams or is a single entity for the purposes of antitrust regulation.

Clothing manufacturer American Needle sued the NFL after the league signed an exclusive deal with Reebok  to produce hats and other merchandise with team logos. The company argued that the NFL violated antitrust laws, and that each team needed to independently negotiate such a contract.

Players have been concerned that a broad ruling in favor of the NFL could lead teams to restrict players’ salaries and reverse gains they’ve made as free agents since the 1990s.

A dozen current and former NFL players, including Nolan Harrison, who retired after a 10-year career, and Deshea Townsend, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, attended the hearing today, and others were on the Hill to lobby Congress on antitrust and other issues.

“Why else would the NFL seek to review a case it won not once but twice?” NFL Players’ Union president, Kevin Mawae, asked at the hearing. The NFL won in the lower courts but joined American Needle in urging the Supreme Court to hear the case. Mawae described the NFL’s strategy as the latest attempt for the league to obtain “the whole grail” of antitrust immunity.

Democrats on the committee echoed the players’ concerns. The case “could affect the free agency concept,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) who chairs the full Judiciary Committee. “The only option would be a players strike.”

The league tried to downplay any impact the case might have on the players. “This case is not about labor relations,” said Gary Gertzog, a senior VP at the NFL, in his opening statement.

The league also argued that the teams could act as a single entity because they competed with other sports and other forms of entertainment for fans.

“The consumer has the ultimate vote,” Gertzog said, arguing that a fan might switch to a different sport if an NFL cap was too expensive.

Other sports leagues backed him up. “It defies economic reality,” said William Daly, a National Hockey League deputy commissioner. ”Sports leagues can’t willy-nilly make decisions that aren’t responsive to the marketplace,” he said.

Republicans on the committee followed the league’s line of reasoning. The subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), said that manufacturers would be harmed if they had to spend time negotiating license agreements with each team separately.

“This is a case of manufacturer’s remorse: American Needle tried to obtain through litigation what it could not get through negotiation,” Coble said, in a reverse echo of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s comments during the arguments at the high court.

“You are seeking through this ruling what you haven’t gotten from Congress,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to the NFL’s lawyer during oral arguments. “An absolute bar to an antitrust claim.”

Even if the Supreme Court grants the league partial immunity that shields it from players’ antitrust suits, it  might not hurt the players all that much, said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member. Given that “professional sports unions are the wealthiest labor unions around; one wonders whether they need any extra leverage,” he said.

Smith suggested the committee had already given the NFL a lot of attention  — three hearings in three months — and said the panel should instead hold hearings on the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against the New Black Panther Party, and on the question of whether to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center.

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) rallied the conservative legal troops at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyer Convention in Washington this morning.

Jeff Sessions (Getty Images)

Jeff Sessions (Getty Images)

With Republicans out of power, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee acknowledged conservatives “find ourselves at a legal crossroads.” Then he attacked new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and David Hamilton, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, for what he described as their liberal stances.

“Americans want judges in the mold of Alexander Hamilton, not David Hamilton,” Sessions said.

The Alabama senator also voted against Sotomayor’s confirmation in August.

Sessions said President George W. Bush tapped judges who were “principled, competent and faithful to the law.” He added: ”The current administration, I fear, doesn’t share that same commitment to fair and objective decision making.”

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

The Justice Department’s equivalent of the Oscars, the Annual Attorney General Awards Ceremony, drew about a dozen U.S. attorneys, virtually all the top brass at Main Justice, and hundreds of Justice Department employees and their families.

An enormous American flag waved from the rafters at DAR Constitution Hall on Wednesday, as Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Mari Barr Santiaglo, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Management Division, read the names of the honorees.

Nearly 300 lawyers, paralegals, agents, and various other law enforcement officials and staff swept across the stage to receive their awards and pose for a picture with Attorney General Eric Holder, whose grin held up well during the two-hour event.

Assembled Justice Department staff at the Attorney General Awards (Steve Bagley/Main Justice)

Assembled Justice Department staff at the Attorney General Awards (Steve Bagley/Main Justice)

“I’ve been looking forward to this ceremony for quite some time,” Holder said in his opening remarks. “Ever since the initial recommendations for award recipients came across my desk, I’ve been excited to meet the men and women whose accomplishments are so richly deserving of this recognition.”

The Justice Department’s top prize, the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, went to a group of DOJ employees whose six-year investigation and prosecution of former Los Angeles Police Department officer Ruben Palomares ended a three-year crime spree. Their work resulted in 15 people pleading guilty and the conviction at trial of two others.

The exceptional service award winners are:

  • Jeffrey S. Blumberg and Joshua D. Mahan, Civil Rights Division prosecutors.
  • Douglas McKinley Miller, Central District of California Assistant U.S. Attorney.
  • Philip J. Carson, FBI Los Angeles division special agent.

One lawyer left with awards in both hands and was called out by Holder for the feat.

Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler won the Edward H. Levi Award for Outstanding Professionalism and Exemplary Integrity for his input on intra-governmental deliberations related to congressional subpoenas of ex-presidential advisers, the release of Office of Legal Counsel opinions and presidential signing statements. He was also awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for his efforts to defend the Navy’s SONAR training while honoring environmental laws.

DOJ employees and U.S. Attorneys at the Attorney General Awards (Steve Bagley/Main Justice)

DOJ employees and U.S. Attorneys at the Attorney General Awards (Steve Bagley/Main Justice)

Another Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service went to several Office of Inspector General employees who investigated the allegations of politicized hiring within the Justice Department, which ended in the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge.

The honorees are: Carol F. Ochoa, Nina S. Pelletier, Mark S. Masling, Joseph Symcak, Judy A. Sutrich, Jason R. Higley, Dominic N. Russoli, Gina J. Wong, Cheron D. Cooper, Katherine A. Zownir, Cynthia A. Schnedar, William M. Blier, William J. Birney, James D. Duncan, Tamara Jaycox Kessler, Raymond C. Hurley, Margaret S. McCarty and James A. Meade.

A team of DOJ employees also received the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for their investigation and prosecution of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, an alleged al-Qaeda sleeper agent who was held as an “enemy combatant” on a Navy brig in South Carolina after 9/11.

The honorees are:

  • Sharon Lever and Joanna Baltes, National Security Division counterterrorism section prosecutors.
  • David E. Risley and Jaci L. Carrell, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois employees.
  • Marla Tusk, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia prosecutor.
  • Timothy P. Kirkham, FBI Aman, Jordan office legal attaché.
  • John H. Stafford, Matthew J. Iskrzycki, Scott B. Easton, Thomas Michael Shanahan, Mary Kay Eades and Rebecca L. Miller, FBI Springfield, Ill., division agents.
  • Jacqueline Maguire and Hillary Brie Sommer, FBI counterterrorism division agents.
  • Nicholas Zambeck, FBI critical incident response group agent.

We particularly enjoyed the presentation of the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Furthering the Interests of U.S. National Security. In furthering the interests of national security, we were not privy to the work for which a group of FBI agents was honored, but we know it involved ”a multi-faceted, long-term investigation, which utilized numerous resources and sophisticated techniques,” according to the Justice Department.

Attorney General Eric Holder congratulates award winners. (Steve Bagley/Main Justice)

Attorney General Eric Holder congratulates award winners. (Steve Bagley/Main Justice)

The FBI winners are:

  • Zachary J. Miller, assistant special agent in charge, New York.
  • John F. Karst Jr. and Elisabete Santos, supervisory special agents.
  • Lionel A. DeSilva, James E. Dennehy, Stephen Fullington, William G. Smith, John J. Hartnett, Robert Kravec, Sara Poole, Michael R. Bickings, Robert B. Booth, Carol A. Motyka, Peter G. Diaz and Daniel S. Kim, special agents.

There were more than 25 different types of awards handed out during the ceremony. The list of honors will grow a little longer next year when the Attorney General presents the Claudia J. Flynn Award for Professional Responsibility for the first time. Flynn, the first director of the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office, died of colon cancer in 2006.

The office provides advice on professional responsibility and choice-of-law issues, as opposed to the Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates complaints against department lawyers.

Read about all of the award winners here.

Joe Palazzolo contributed to this report.

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Stephanie Rose — Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) choice for Iowa Northern District U.S. Attorney — is proceeding on course through the vetting process despite continued protests from immigrant rights groups, a person with knowledge of the nomination process told Main Justice today.

Stephanie Rose

Stephanie Rose

The deputy chief of the office’s criminal division was recommended to President Obama in March. Immigration lawyers and immigrant rights advocates have since questioned Rose’s role in a controversial round-up of 300 undocumented immigrants working at a meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa last year.

American Immigration Lawyers Association Vice President David Leopold has said the prosecutions from the raid weren’t fair because there weren’t enough lawyers to represent the workers. There is also a petition with more than 300 signatures that asks the Justice Department to investigate the Postville raid and questions Rose’s role in the prosecutions.

Harkin in May said Rose didn’t take part in the decision to prosecute the immigrant workers. The raid was conducted during the term of U.S. Attorney Matt Dummermuth, a Bush appointee who never won Senate confirmation. Read our previous post here.

The persona familiar with the nomination told Main Justice that the questions surrounding Rose’s role in the raids aren’t an issue for the administration. The person said Rose hasn’t been formally nominated yet, because the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has all U.S. Attorney candidates on the back burner.

Obama also hasn’t nominated a U.S. Attorney for the Iowa Southern District. Harkin recommended Nick Klinefeldt for the post in March.

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor won Senate confirmation this afternoon to the Supreme Court by a vote of 68 to 31.

Only nine Republicans voted in favor of her confirmation. They were:

-Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.)

-Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.)

-Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine)

-Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)

-Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.)

-Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)

-Sen. Christopher Bond (Mo.)

-Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.)

-Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio)

Here’s the Senate roll call vote:

YEAs — 68
Akaka (D-HI)
Alexander (R-TN)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Bond (R-MO)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Burris (D-IL)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Gregg (R-NH)
Graham (R-SC)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kaufman (D-DE)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (D-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs — 31
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bennett (R-UT)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
Murkowski (R-AK)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Not Voting - 1
Kennedy (D-MA)
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in an interview today with Main Justice that a vote on Justice Department Civil Rights Division nominee Thomas Perez could happen “as early as next week.”

Tom Perez (

Tom Perez (

The Maryland senator said confirming Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is a top priority for the Senate before it starts its month long recess next week. But a vote on Perez before the August recess is still possible, he said.

“I hope that we can move it before the recess,” Cardin said. “We’re going to try.”

Perez is currently Maryland’s labor secretary. Cardin, a Senate Judiciary Committee member from Perez’s home state, said he had several meetings with Republicans who opposed the Perez nomination, which was reported out of committee on June 4 by a vote of 17-2. Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) were the only senators to oppose Perez in committee.

Sessions, the ranking member of the committee, called into question last month Perez’s prior work on the board of CASA de Maryland, an influential immigrant advocacy group that has come under fire by anti-immigration groups.

Coburn said last month that Perez, former director of the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has supported providing translators to illegal immigrants who are receiving medical care. The Oklahoma senator, a medical doctor who operated on people without U.S. citizenship, said providing illegal immigrants with interpreters would “wreck health care.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Coburn and Sessions got a “much clearer view” of Perez from one of the meetings they had with Cardin. Sessions said that that the meeting he had with Cardin, Kyl and Coburn was “a good meeting.”

Cardin said he wasn’t aware of any current efforts by the Republicans to delay a vote on Perez.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Six of seven Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans voted against Bronx-born Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in committee today, in a move sure to please the GOP’s shrinking base of white evangelicals and Southerners. The fact that Sotomayor is the first Hispanic nominated to the court? Well, Latinos weren’t voting for Republicans anyway, right?

The panel’s vote was 13-6 in favor, with all Democrats supporting Sotomayor. Her nomination now goes to the full Senate, where her confirmation isn’t in doubt, as Democrats control 60 votes in the Senate and five Republicans have said they will vote for her.

In today’s committee vote, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was the only committee Republican to vote for Sotomayor. We wonder how this will place in conservative South Carolina, and can only note that an influx of retirees from the North is making the Palmetto State a slightly more progressive place these days.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who’d stayed mum about his intentions, joined his GOP colleagues to give a thumbs down to President Obama’s nominee to replace retired Justice David Souter.

The panel’s ranking member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), had announced his opposition to Sotomayor in an op-ed piece on Monday in USA Today, writing: “I don’t believe that Judge Sotomayor has the deep-rooted convictions necessary to resist the siren call of judicial activism.” Read the Sessions piece here.

Later on Monday, Sen. Charles Grassely, another Judiciary Republican, also said he would not vote for Sotomayor. Citing her rulings on gun and property rights, the Iowa Republican said in a statement: “I was not convinced that Judge Sotomayor understands the rights given to Americans under the Constitution, or that she will refrain from expanding or restricting those rights based on her personal preferences,

Judiciary GOP Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) also had previously announced their opposition to Sotomayor, as has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky).

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is the only minority member of the Judiciary panel to announce support for Sotomayor. Judiciary member Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) hasn’t said yet how he will vote.

The Houston Chronicle wrote this piece asking whether Cornyn’s opposition in Latino-heavy Texas would hurt him politically.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

The Senate Judiciary Committee did more than approve Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court today. It also reported Office of Legal Policy nominee Christopher Schroeder and other nominees to the Senate by voice vote.

Christopher Schroeder (Duke)

Christopher Schroeder (Duke)

The appointees reported by voice vote include: Thomas McLellan to be deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; Alejandro Mayorkas to be director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security; and Cranston J. Mitchell to be a commissioner of the U.S. Parole Commission.

The senators present did not make any specific comments regarding Schroeder during the meeting today. But ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Republicans had “some concern about the nominees.”

Schroeder’s nomination for the DOJ office that oversees judicial nominations and legal policy has flown a bit under the radar. First, President Obama’s original choice for the job, Mayer Brown partner Mark Gitenstein, withdrew under fire from liberal groups outraged about his advocacy of tort reform on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Then, Schroeder’s June 24 confirmation hearing was disrupted and cut short by a Senate quorum call to consider impeachment charges against Texas U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent. Read our previous post about the OLP nominee here.

The 19 senators present did, however, have a lot to say about Sotomayor.

She passed the panel by a 13-6 vote that was mostly along party lines. Sessions and Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Charles Grassley (Iowa), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) voted against reporting Sotomayor to the Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) was the only Republican to vote in favor of sending Sotomayor to the Senate.

Graham said today during the meeting that Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remarks “did bug the hell out” of him. But he said those comments were not enough for him to vote against what he called a “competent” and “well qualified” nominee.

Hatch echoed many of the sentiments of the dissenting Republicans in his statement before the panel today.

“In the end, Judge Sotomayor’s record regarding her approach left too many unresolved controversies and too many conflicts with fundamental principles about the judiciary in which I deeply believe,” Hatch said. “As a result, I regret that I cannot support her appointment to the Supreme Court.”

Read our previous post about the Republican opposition to Sotomayor here.

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Five of the seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have announced their opposition to Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The panel’s ranking member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), announced his opposition to Sotomayor in an op-ed piece on Monday in USA Today, writing: “I don’t believe that Judge Sotomayor has the deep-rooted convictions necessary to resist the siren call of judicial activism.” Read the Sessions piece here.

Later on Monday, Sen. Charles Grassely, another Judiciary Republican, also said he would not vote for Sotomayor. Citing her rulings on gun and property rights, the Iowa Republican said in a statement: “I was not convinced that Judge Sotomayor understands the rights given to Americans under the Constitution, or that she will refrain from expanding or restricting those rights based on her personal preferences,

Judiciary GOP Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) have also announced their opposition to Sotomayor, as has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky).

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is the only minority member of the Judiciary panel to announce support for Sotomayor. Judiciary member Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) hasn’t said yet how he will vote.

The Houston Chronicle wrote this piece asking whether Cornyn’s opposition in Latino-heavy Texas would hurt him politically.

The Judiciary Committee will vote on Sotomayor’s nomination on Tuesday, with a confirmation vote before the full Senate expected before Congress’s August break. Her confirmation, however, is not in doubt. Democrats control the Senate by a wide margin, and five Republicans (including Graham) have announced their support.