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Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor Takes The Stand

Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor takes the stand today in what looks like be one of the controversial confirmation hearings yet. (Well, besides that whole Clarence Thomas, pubic-hair-on-my-Coke thing.) In May, Barack Obama announced that Sotomayor was his pick to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court. Ever since then, the liberal Latina judge has faced wave after wave of Republican criticism. For the next seven days, Sotomayor will be nitpicked with the GOP’s fine sharp-toothed comb. While day one of the hearings is basically a warm-up, here’s what to expect as the questioning really heats up. [NY Times] A strong Republican offense is expected when analyzing a liberal judge, but the interesting racial circumstances surrounding Sotomayor force conservatives to come up with some clever strategy maneuvering this time around.

One of the most interesting factors to watch for in the Sotomayor hearings—Senate Republicans will have to walk a very thin line. They need to aggressively question Sotomayor to keep their party happy, and but they also can’t risk alienating Latino voters, many of whom are pumped to have one of their own nominated for the Supreme Court. And Hispanic voters are a base that’s been critical to them in recent elections. Still, don’t expect too much pussy-footing. They’ll surely put Sotomayor through the ringer.

All her legal and social qualities will be under extreme scrutiny this week. Democrats will surely focus on Sotomayor’s rise to the top from her poor Bronx upbringing, while Republicans will raise the question whether her background makes her a biased judge. (Uh, is there such a thing as a person whose background doesn’t make them biased in some way?) Sotomayor’s “racist” remark at Berkeley Law School will definitely be a top issue for Republicans—she said she hopes that a “wise Latina” would be able to make better decisions than a white male who has not lived her kind of life. She’ll also no doubt be asked about the Second Amendment—she’s voted that one’s right to bare arms does not apply to guns at the state level. She’ll also be grilled on what she thinks of holding detainees without trial on US soil. Another hot issue surrounding Sotomayor—her decision on Ricci vs. DeStefano. Republicans are sure to confront Sotomayor on her vote against white firefighters claiming that it was unlawful to throw out an exam because minority firefighters performed poorly.

The fact that, if confirmed, Sotomayor will be replacing another liberal judge is definitely in her favor, as neither party has to worry about a drastic change to the court’s dynamic. The majority of Democrats believe Sotomayor is a shoe-in, and they want to see a confirmation vote by the end of the month. But after this week of questioning, then witness testimonies, follow-up questions, and open floor debate, Republicans will probably be able to stall a vote until after the Senate recess in August.

Sotomayor speaks at 1:30pm—check it out live at MSNBC.com. I know I’ll be there.

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