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Sotomayor hearings: Hatch blasts Obama

July 13, 2009 |  8:15 am

JaniceRogersBrown Sen. Orrin Hatch, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, used his opening remarks to criticize President Obama for his stance on former GOP judicial nominees.

While Obama was a senator, Hatch noted, he opposed the nomination of California Supreme Court Janice Rogers Brown and Washington attorney Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Brown eventually was confirmed to the appeals court. Estrada pulled out of the process after firm Democratic opposition.

Brown, an African American, and Estrada, a Latino, also offered compelling life stories, similar to Sotomayor’s, Hatch said. He rejected the White House’s assertion that the committee should focus on her judicial record, not her speeches.

He also blasted Obama for his "no" vote on then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito in 2006. Obama was one of 42 Democrats to oppose Alito.

“In fact, Sen. Obama never voted to confirm a Supreme Court justice,” Hatch said. “He even voted against the man who administered the oath of presidential office, Chief Justice John Roberts, another distinguished and well-qualified nominee.”

“Whether I vote for or against Judge Sotomayor,” Hatch said, “it will be by applying the principles I have laid out, not by using such tactics and standards against these nominees in the past.”

But Hatch was doing more than reciting past grievances. He’s making the case for Republican opposition to Sotomayor on the Senate floor — suggesting that if Republicans end up opposing her en masse, it will be no different than how Democrats treated the Alito nomination. (It should be noted that four Democrats voted for Alito.)

-- James Oliphant

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Photo: California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown in a San Francisco courtroom in May 2005.  Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press