WASHINGTON – Republicans accused Democrats Wednesday of moving too hastily on Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, warning that the decision could imperil her confirmation as they pressed the judge for more documents from her past. The top Senate Republican blasted Democrats' decision to schedule mid-July hearings for Sotomayor's confirmation, while another senior GOP senator floated the possibility of a filibuster by angry Republicans against President Barack Obama's first high court nominee.
"They want the shortest timeline in recent memory for someone with the longest judicial record in recent memory," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader. "This violates basic standards of fairness and it prevents senators from carrying out one of their most solemn duties."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said many Republicans may end up voting against Sotomayor because they feel they haven't had time to learn enough about her. Others, he said, might decide to protest what they see as unfair treatment with stalling tactics in the Judiciary Committee or on the Senate floor to block her from being confirmed.
"I don't think anybody wants to filibuster Judge Sotomayor — I certainly don't want to — but sometimes the only way you can make sure things are fair ... is to invoke some of the rules," Hatch said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, announced Tuesday that hearings would open July 13. That's 48 days after President Barack Obama named Sotomayor for the high court.
It took at least a week more than that to begin hearings on each of the last three justices to be confirmed, but almost two weeks less for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was confirmed in 1993.
Ginsburg had been a federal appeals court judge for 13 years when she was nominated; Sotomayor has been on the federal bench for almost 17 years.
McConnell did not say what the GOP is prepared to do, if anything, to try slow the timetable. But several other Republicans warned that Democrats were inviting problems for Sotomayor's nomination by insisting on a fast process.
Leahy said he was just trying to ensure that Sotomayor's confirmation timetable tracks with the one for Chief Justice John Roberts, who got a vote 72 days after former President George W. Bush nominated him in 2005.
Democrats want to complete the process for Sotomayor by the time the Senate breaks for a monthlong vacation on August 7. That would be 73 days after Obama nominated her. Republicans point instead to the 92 days it took to get a confirmation vote on Justice Samuel Alito.
Still, it's clear that Democrats are using Sotomayor's nomination to stoke and expand their political base. The Democratic National Committee launched a feature on its Web site called "Sign Judge Sotomayor's Virtual Cast," where supporters can leave a note for the judge, who broke her ankle in an airport stumble Monday.
Meanwhile, Judiciary Republicans called on Sotomayor to cough up more documents they say she left out of her response to a detailed questionnaire on her background, writings and rulings.
The seven senators wrote to Sotomayor Wednesday asking her to supply a long list of additions "as soon as possible," according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Associated Press. GOP aides have noticed a number of "apparent omissions," the senators wrote, and some of the responses provided are "incomplete."
Among the items they requested are articles Sotomayor edited while a student at Yale Law School and internal documents from organizations she was involved with, including the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a legal advocacy group for Hispanics.
The letter also questions Sotomayor's membership in the Belizean Grove, an elite private club comprised of high-powered women that's the female answer to the secretive, 130-year-old Bohemian Grove.
In her original response to the questionnaire, Sotomayor noted that the group discriminates on the basis of gender, but wrote that, "I do not consider the Belizean Grove to invidiously discriminate on the basis of sex in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct."
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