Despite threats, a stand on principle

Back on the day President Obama nominated 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the man who chortled while celebrating the federal actions that burned to death dozens of minority women and children at the Mount Carmel Church in Waco, Texas, 16 years ago, warned his Republican colleagues that any who opposed this nomination would do so at their “own peril.”

The implication, clearly, was that anything but a docile nuzzling at the hand of the Democratic majority would cost Republicans the votes of American women, or Hispanics, or possibly both.

Republicans were supposed to forget or ignore the fact that Democrats, when faced with the appeals court nomination of standout Hispanic attorney Miguel Estrada by George W. Bush six years ago, blocked action on the nomination until it was withdrawn, not even allowing it to come up to a vote — without any apparent concern over the loss of Hispanic votes.

President Obama has a solid Democratic majority in the Senate, now bolstered with a typically Democratic “recount” victory for Minnesota comedian Al Franken. (Democrats count the votes only till they come out ahead; that’s always the last recount.) So Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation was never in serious doubt.

The concern, rather, was that Republican senators would lie down like dogs, voting for the nominee despite their principled opposition to the pattern of “racial spoils” preferences displayed consistently in her writings, speeches and rulings from the bench — in fact, right up to her “confirmation conversion,” which all expect to be short-lived.

Instead, Republican members of the Judiciary Committee showed some spine this week — and a glimmer of an “I told you so” theme for the 2010 campaign — by standing solidly against the nomination.

Republicans persistently asked tough questions about Judge Sotomayor’s pretty much nonexistent commitment to “protect and defend” the Second Amendment, property rights and equal opportunity, as well as about her many speeches that call into question her belief in judicial impartiality and a colorblind court.

And when the Judiciary Committee vote came Tuesday, six of the seven Republican members — including Sens. John Cornyn and Jon Kyl, who hail from states with large Hispanic populations — stood their ground, on principle, and voted no.

They knew they couldn’t win. But they still did the right thing.

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