8 a.m. ET: The final weekend before the start of today's Senate Judiciary Committee session brought one last spate of biographical pieces on Sonia Sotomayor, highlighting her unusual route from the South Bronx to Princeton and Yale, the federal bench and the cusp of the highest court of the land. As a person and Supreme Court nominee, Sotomayor may well be interesting, but if the coverage today is any indication, her confirmation hearings probably won't be.
Republicans made clear Sunday that they plan to question Sotomayor's ability to be a fair jurist. “I am really flabbergasted by the depth and consistency of her philosophical critique of the ideal of impartial justice,” Jeff Sessions said on Face the Nation Sunday. And John Cornyn said "the ethnicity focus, the focus on sex and on race," in Sotomayor's past comments would be problematic for her.
But that's about as strong as the rhetoric got, and The New York Times reports, "senators from both parties seemed to accept that her nomination was unlikely to be derailed given the Democrats’ majority." Roll Call predicts "Republicans are unlikely to put the nominee on trial." Even the most routine pre-hearing machinations have seemed duller than usual. Obama called Sotomayor Sunday to wish her luck. "He complimented the Judge for making courtesy calls to 89 Senators in which she discussed her adherence to the rule of law throughout her 17 years on the federal bench," according to a White House statement. Sounds like quite the exciting phone conversation.
But as National Review's editorial board puts it, "the hearings provide an important opportunity for Senate Republicans to expose Sotomayor’s, and President Obama’s, troubling views about the proper role of the Supreme Court." So for Republicans, the Sotomayor hearings may be more important in symbol than substance, giving the minority the chance to define the parameters of debate and lay the groundwork for the next confirmation fight. As for the majority side, Politico covers "the official, 200-plus-page White House playbook distributed to Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats tasked with defending" Sotomayor, illustrating "a streamlined, no-drama strategy modeled on the flawless performance of Chief Justice John Roberts back in 2005."
(Live coverage of the Sotomayor hearings begins at 10 a.m. ET here.)
Speaking of strategy, Hill Democrats are still searching for one that will get health care reform passed. Many are still waiting for Obama to involve himself directly in the health care debate. The White House decided long ago not to repeat the mistakes of 1993 by dictating a bill to Congress, but the administration can only remain hands-off for so long before allies start wondering where Obama really stands in these contentious debates over funding, the public option and other issues. Even if Obama does get more involved, it looks increasingly unlikely that the Senate will meet the president's deadline by passing a bill before the August recess.
On the crime blotter, calls for investigations of Bush-era misdeeds are popping up everywhere, as Eric Holder considers appointing a special prosecutor to probe the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques and some congressional Democrats want an inquiry into how and why they were kept in the dark for eight years about a classified CIA program that Leon Panetta shut down last month. (The Wall Street Journal calls the program as "an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives," which is as detailed a description as we've gotten so far.)
And God forbid a day go by without a full complement of new Sarah Palin stories. Palin's much-chronicled decision to resign as governor gets a lot more chronicling this morning from the New York Times, which reconstructs the steps leading up to her announcement (note there are five reporters on the byline; who says newspapers are cutting back?) and concludes that she quit largely became she became overly preoccupied with the various ethics complaints and scandalous stories attached to her name in the press. Now that she's made her decision, The Washington Times trumpets this headline: "EXCLUSIVE: Palin to stump for conservative Democrats," atop a story in which Palin says she would campaign for candidates "regardless of their party label or affiliation." No, she did not actually say she would campaign for "conservative Democrats," and we'll believe that when we see it.
July 13, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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