Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has strongly hinted that he is likely to schedule a confirmation hearing in July for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. But whether the hearing takes place early or late in the month could make a big difference as to when she could join the Court.
Complicating the timing is the Senate's traditional mid-summer recess, scheduled to begin Aug. 7 this year.
A hearing the week of July 6, for example, would give Democrats a month before the recess to try to hold the hearing, have a vote in the Judiciary Committee, and have a vote by the full Senate. A hearing later in the month, though, would allow Republicans the chance to push a vote by the full Senate into September.
Leahy and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, are scheduled to sit down Wednesday to discuss a date for the hearing to begin. The hearing would likely last three or more days.
After meeting with Sotomayor today, Leahy noted that he could have scheduled a June meeting. "Some have recommended we have hearings this month. She was nominated last month. I feel that's too soon," he said. He did not say who had made the recommendation.
But Leahy also said he doesn't want to wait too much longer. "When you have vicious attacks, when leading Republicans call her the equivalent of the head of the Ku Klux Klan and call her a bigot — totally false and outrageous charges — there's only one place she can answer those charges. It would be in a hearing," he said.
Sessions did not mention a specific date in talking with reporters today. "There're over three or four thousand cases that are part of her 17-year record. They do need to be examined, and they will be examined," he said. "And I don't think it's good to rush this."
Leahy suggested that Republicans have been looking at Sotomayor's record for some time: "We asked the Republicans, 'Would you like a list of her cases? We have the whole list.' They said, 'No, we already have it.'"