Senate decorum is made for “historic moments,” and there was much of it on display in the vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina Supreme Court Justice: the wooden benches, Robert Byrd being wheeled out of the hospital for this special occasion. But none of it could cover up the very modern and petty reality of the partisan split. Only nine Republicans voted for her. Compare that with Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, only 16 years ago, was confirmed by a 96-3 vote. Even Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and keeper of the bipartisan peace, declined, for the first time, to confirm a Supreme Court justice. Sotomayor spent her entire confirmation hearing distancing herself from President Obama’s “empathy” standard. The Republicans are desperate to win over Latinos. And still, neither of those incentives trumped the apparently urgent need to crush the opposing team.
Photograph of Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT), by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.