WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn, who will be among the senators to question Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor at her Capitol Hill hearings, said the Senate shouldn’t rush the confirmation process. "The point isn’t to delay,” said Coburn, R-Muskogee. "The point is to make an informed decision.” Coburn is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold nomination hearings. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, the chairman of the committee, said after meeting with Sotomayor last week he wants to have hearings in July, while Republicans want to wait until September, after Congress’ monthlong recess. Sotomayor began making the rounds on Capitol Hill last week, meeting with Senate leaders and Judiciary Committee members. She was nominated last month by President Barack Obama to succeed Justice David H. Souter, who plans to retire before the next session begins in October. The White House also wants quick confirmation. Coburn said in an interview he asked to delay his meeting with the nominee until he’s read opinions she wrote or joined while serving on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "We have to do a lot of work,” he said. "We can’t do it fast.” Coburn said he had added another lawyer to his committee staff to help get through all of Sotomayor’s legal opinions. "I’ve been reading an hour a day on some of the cases already,” he said.
Like an umpireMany conservatives have blasted Sotomayor for saying — in a speech away from the bench in 2001 — that "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Coburn said he didn’t think the comment was necessarily disqualifying for a seat on the nation’s highest court. But, he said, life experiences "are not supposed to impact you on the court.” He said he agreed with the analogy made by Chief Justice John Roberts, who said during his confirmation in 2005 that a judge was supposed to be like an umpire, applying rules rather than making them. Leahy said attacks made against Sotomayor for the "wise Latina woman” remark entitle her to answer the criticisms quickly. Coburn said he was concerned about another comment made by Sotomayor, in which she said the federal appeals court level was where "policy is made.” He said he would be combing her legal opinions to determine whether she was "concerned about making policy” from the bench.