Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley voted against the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor this morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s the first time in nearly 29 years Grassley’s voted "no" on a nominee for the nation’s high court. Grassley says he’s not convinced Sotomayor will be impartial and he’s concerned about her "wild-eyed" statements on race.
Grassley, a Republican, says he "made a mistake" some 20 years ago when he voted for the nomination of Justice David Souter, who’s now stepping down. Grassley says Souter was the only one of the 12 justices for whom he’s voted who "turned out differently from what I anticipated."
"(Souter) talked about the Supreme Court needing to fill vacuums in the law if Congress hadn’t acted," Grassley says. "Well, you know how our system of government works. The legislature makes laws, the Supreme Court interprets the laws and the Constitution, and filling a vacuum because Congress hasn’t acted, is legislating."
Souter is retiring and Sotomayor is expected to fill his seat, as her confirmation is all but certain in the full Senate. Grassley says he saw some of Souter’s legal philosophies in Sotomayor during the confirmation hearings. "I asked her about that and I got a lot of gobbledygook along the same lines of what the Supreme Court’s supposed to do or not do and I see myself voting for another Souter if I vote for her," Grassley says. "I’m not going to make that mistake again."
In an interview on Monday, Iowa native and Nebraska U.S. Senator Mike Johanns said Sotomayor’s comments about being a "wise Latina" are a concern to him, adding, "that’s not what being a judge is about." Grassley, too, says he has concerns about Sotomayor’s comments regarding her ethnic background.
"She tried to overcome a lot of the speeches and wild-eyed statements she made when she was trying to change her tune as the nominee," Grassley says. "I kinda’ felt like it was a ‘confirmation conversion’ and a matter of expediency to look more like a judge and less like a legislator or a political ideologue." Sotomayor is considered a virtual lock to be confirmed by the full Senate next week as the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan issued a statement Monday saying: "By voting ‘no,’ Senator Grassley signals he’s out of touch with Iowans and more interested in pleasing Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee than his constituents back home. Judge Sotomayor is a down-to-earth person who has approached the bench from the real world, not an ivory tower."
Sotomayor was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-6 vote.