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Past GOP Votes for Sotomayor No Guarantee of Support This Time

Even as the emerging consensus among Washington prognosticators is that Republicans will have a tough political time opposing President Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, Roll Call is reporting (subscription) that the same Senate Republicans who voted in 1998 for Sotomayor’s placement on a federal appellate court aren’t assuring their support this time around.

GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch of Utah, Thad Cochran (Miss.), Judd Gregg (N.H.) and Dick Lugar (Ind.), as well as Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who at the time was a Republican, all voted to install Sotomayor on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But since that vote, Sotomayor has been involved in a number of decisions and has made statements that Republicans say they will closely parse to determine whether to support her nomination to the high court.

This is fully consistent with the GOP caucus’ cautious approach to Sotomayor thus far.

Indeed, despite those controversial decisions and comments, the most conservative Senate Republicans — even those who opposed her for the appellate court spot more than a decade ago — are holding any biting judgments for fear of the possible political consequences of alienating Hispanic and female voters leading up to the 2010 mid-term elections.

As Rowan University political scientist Lawrence Butler said in a phone interview Tuesday, the aggressiveness with which the GOP chooses to go after Sotomayor “is more of a political decision, not one based on principle.”

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