Republicans might need a Christmas in July if they hope to delay the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
In remarks today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that the Senate should follow a timeline similar to the one for then-nominee Samuel Alito Jr. But that confirmation process was significantly delayed by the holidays in late 2005, including Christmas and New Year’s.
Senators had 70 days to prepare between the announcement of Alito’s nomination Oct. 31, 2005 and the start of his confirmation hearing Jan. 9, 2006. A July 13 start date for Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing — announced Tuesday by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — would give senators 48 days to prepare, or 22 fewer days than they had for Alito.
“(It) stands to reason that we’d have as much time to review her record,” McConnell said in remarks prepared for the Senate floor. “But for some reason the old standard has suddenly been thrown out just as new reasons have emerged for rushing the process on this particular nominee.”
Sen. Arlen Specter, then the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, cited the holidays when he scheduled Alito’s hearing for early 2006. “It simply wasn’t possible to accommodate the schedule that the White House wanted: before Christmas,” Specter said at the time, according to Congressional Quarterly. “It just couldn’t be done. We have to do it right. We can’t do it fast.”
Leahy, in announcing the July 13 date for Sotomayor, sought to preempt a comparison to the Alito timeline. He said that Alito required more preparation because then-President George W. Bush had not consulted with Congress, because the Judiciary Committee had recently completed the intense confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., and because of the holidays.
“I do not believe Bastille Day requires us to delay the confirmation hearings for the first Hispanic nominated to the Supreme Court for an additional six weeks,” Leahy said.
The French celebrate Bastille Day on July 14.