WASHINGTON - Republican senators voiced skepticism yesterday about President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, but avoided the name-calling that has come from some conservative activists, notably former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who have labeled Sotomayor a "racist."
"I don't think that's an accurate description of her," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of several GOP senators who discussed the nomination on the Sunday talk shows.
Sessions agreed on NBC's Meet the Press that Sotomayor's record - former prosecutor, corporate lawyer, 17 years as a federal judge, at both the district and circuit levels - is "the kind of background you would look for, almost an ideal mix" of experience for the Supreme Court. "That's very strong in her favor," he said.
But he said he and other Republicans are concerned about speeches Sotomayor has given about a judge's decisions being affected by life experiences. "It goes against the heart of the great American heritage of an independent judge," he said.
None of the Republicans on the shows predicted attempting a filibuster to block Sotomayor's nomination, but none ruled it out, either.
"I think we need to look at the record fully, and I think we ought to do that in an expeditious way," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas), appearing on CNN's State of the Union. "I don't think that the need for filibuster will be there unless we have not had a chance to look at the record fully. That's when a closer vote comes into play."
One of Sotomayor's home-state senators, and her sponsor through the Senate confirmation process, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.), predicted that GOP senators would not mount a filibuster.
On ABC's This Week, Schumer said he thinks that Republicans will see her as a "legally excellent" and "not a far-left-wing judge," noting that "Business Week said her record on business was moderate" and that "the Wall Street Journal called her mainstream."
"I think she's virtually filibuster-proof when people learn her record and her story," he said.