WASHINGTON - Republicans accused Democrats yesterday of moving too hastily on Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, warning that the decision could imperil her confirmation as they pressed the judge for more documents from her past.
The top Senate Republican blasted Democrats' decision to schedule mid-July hearings for Sotomayor's confirmation, while another senior GOP senator floated the possibility of a filibuster by angry Republicans against President Obama's first high court nominee.
"They want the shortest timeline in recent memory for someone with the longest judicial record in recent memory," said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), the minority leader. "This violates basic standards of fairness, and it prevents senators from carrying out one of their most solemn duties."
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R., Utah), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said that many Republicans may end up voting against Sotomayor because they feel they have not had time to learn enough about her. Others, he said, might decide to protest what they see as unfair treatment with stalling tactics in the Judiciary Committee or on the Senate floor to block her from being confirmed.
"I don't think anybody wants to filibuster Judge Sotomayor - I certainly don't want to," Hatch said, "but sometimes the only way you can make sure things are fair . . . is to invoke some of the rules."
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D., Vt.), the Judiciary Committee chairman, announced Tuesday that hearings would open July 13. That's 48 days after Obama named Sotomayor for the high court.
It took at least a week more than that to begin hearings on each of the last three justices to be confirmed, but almost two weeks less for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was confirmed in 1993.
Ginsburg had been a federal appeals court judge for 13 years when she was nominated; Sotomayor has been on the federal bench for almost 17 years.
McConnell did not say what the GOP was prepared to do, if anything, to try to slow the timetable.
Democrats want to complete the process for Sotomayor by the time the Senate breaks for a monthlong vacation Aug. 7.