Pro-Sotomayor Republican Senator: ‘We Cannot Make Every Supreme Court Vacancy a Battle Over Our Culture’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | July 22, 2009 | 4:36 PM EDT

( - Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on the Senate floor today that he believes special interest groups on both the right and left may be gaining too much influence over the confirmation of judges and warned that the Senate “cannot make every Supreme Court vacancy a battle over our culture.”

Graham made the statement while announcing he would vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Democrats currently have a 60-vote majority in the Senate, enough to defeat a Republican filibuster on any issue or appointment as long as all party members vote for cloture. They do not need Graham's vote to confirm Sotomayor.

When Democrats were in the minority in the Senate, they filibustered a number of President Bush's appelate court nominees.  And, as a senator, President Obama himself voted to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Sam Alito. That filibuster failed.
Senate Republicans are not filibustering the nomination of Judge Sotomayor.

Many conservatives oppose the Sotomayor’s confirmation because they believe her record indicates she will not respect the original meaning of the Constitution if she is placed on the high court.

Before she became a judge, Sotomayor served on the board of the adamantly pro-abortion Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. As an appeals judge, she ruled that New York state did not have to obey the Second Amendment, and decided that white and Hispanic firemen in New Haven, Conn., could be denied promotion based on their race.
“I don’t want to turn over the confirmation of judges to special interest groups on the left or the right, and that’s where we are headed if we don’t watch,” Graham said in a Senate floor speech. “Special interest groups are important. They have their say. They have every right to have their say. But we cannot make every Supreme Court vacancy a battle over our culture.”
If confirmed, Sotomayor is virtually certain to sit on a Supreme Court that settles constitutional questions involving the ability of state governments to regulate abortion and same-sex marriage
Graham also suggested that voting against confirming Sotomayor to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court would in some way be a step toward invalidating elections.
“Now, I don’t know what’s ahead for this country when it comes to picking Supreme Court judges. I don’t know what openings may occur and when they will occur,” said Graham. “I know this: that elections have to matter, that I don’t want to invalidate elections by disagreeing with someone who I ran against or opposed politically, because when the election is over everything has to change to some extent.”
Graham immediately followed this statement by insisting that as a U.S. senator he was nonetheless not obligated to vote to confirm every Obama nominee.
“I am not bound to agree with every pick of President Obama, but when it comes to trying to show some deference I will,” said Graham.  “I will try to do better for him than he was able to do for President Bush.”
Graham did not mention any position or statement Sotomayor had taken on constitutional issues or legal doctrines that inspired him to vote for her. Instead, he pointed to her biography as the reason he wanted her confirmed to the nation’s highest court.
“And one last comment about Judge Sotomayor,” said Graham. “She is one year older than I am. I grew up in the Deep South.  I am the first person in my family to go to college. And I lost my parents when I was in college and had a 13-year-old sister to raise.  She grew up in the Bronx, came to this country from Puerto Rico. Her mother joined the Army. She lost her dad when she was very young. Her mother raised Judge Sotomayor and her brother under difficult circumstances.  Her brother is a doctor. She has been able, Judge Sotomayor, to excel academically and reach the highest rung of America’s legal system and that to me is a hell of a story.
“Nobody in my family ever expected me to be a United States Senator, including myself,” said Graham. “Only in America can these things happen. So, I choose to vote for Judge Sotomayor--looking at her from the most optimistic perspective, understanding I could be wrong, but proud of the fact that my country is moving in the right direction when anybody and everybody can hit it out of the park.”
Article 2, Section 2 of the United States Constitution gives the president the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.”  A Supreme Court nominee must win a majority in a Senate confirmation vote in order to actually take a seat on the court.