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Sotomayor hearings: John Cornyn steps carefully

July 13, 2009 |  9:18 am

Cornyn

Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican from Texas, just gave his opening statement, and Cornyn's in an interesting spot.

He's a former Texas Supreme Court justice and state attorney general -- and has been expressing his concerns over Sotomayor's record on his website on a daily basis. With another Democratic nominee, you might expect Cornyn to play attack dog.

But Cornyn wears two hats here. He's also chairman of the Republican Senate reelection machine -- and must concern himself with the health of the GOP as a whole. Does he want to risk alienating Latinos -- now so central to the success of both national parties -- over a nominee almost certain to be confirmed?

Unlike many of his colleagues, Cornyn, early on, avoided criticizing Sotomayor directly for her public remarks. Instead, he listed his slightly wonkish worries about the direction of the federal judiciary as a whole. "Would you vote to return to a written Constitution ... or would you take us further away," he asked Sotomayor. "We need to know more about your record."

He's particularly concerned, he said, about the 2nd Amendment and gun rights and the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment, employed in eminent-domain proceedings. And ultimately, he said, he fears Sotomayor would create "new rights."

"No one can accuse you for not having been candid about your views," Cornyn said in what must be considered a left-handed compliment.

-- James Oliphant

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In this June 4, 2009 file photo, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor meets with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, FILE)

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