President Obama announced yesterday that he would nominate US appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. With the composition of the Senate favoring the Democrats, Republicans and conservatives seem to be resigned to having Sotomayor breeze through the confirmation process with only marginal resistance.
Yet, I'm not so sure it's as much of a fait accompli as the Right wants to make it. In fact, it's entirely possible that Sotomayor may see pressure from the Right...and the Left. Whether it will be enough to derail the Sotomayor nomination has yet to be seen, but the possibility is still out there.
One of the Left's cornerstone political issues is abortion. They use it to raise money, scare up votes, and determine who to support for office and judicial appointments. Yet, if the reports I've read are accurate, one issue that Sotomayor hasn't addressed yet or frequently enough to note is...abortion. If she doesn't come down in favor of abortion, Leftists will be presented with an ideological Gordian knot: support a Hispanic woman for the High Court, or sell out on abortion.
If Senate Republicans are smart (which I grant you is a stretch), it's this unknown quantity that they'll discuss during Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. If it's done correctly, the Republicans can stir up the Left's abortion wing and get them to put pressure on her from the Left. This may be enough to get Democrat Senators to think twice about confirming Sotomayor, even if they would normally confirm her based on her existing record.
There is a risk involved with this tack, however. If Sotomayor can come up with a plausible legal opinion on abortion that the Left accepts and/or understands, it may backfire. Having said that, it's a gambit that the Senate Republicans should not take off the table just yet because it can have a bigger payoff than they think.