Hearings to consider the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the position of Supreme Court justice will begin on July 13, the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), announced Tuesday.
"There is no reason to unduly delay consideration of this well-qualified nominee," Leahy said in a statement on the Senate floor. "Indeed, given the attacks on her character, there are compelling reasons to proceed even ahead of this schedule. She deserves the earliest opportunity to respond to those attacks."
Since Obama announced Sotomayor as his first high court nominee last Tuesday, there have been a number of concerns that have come out, including a 2001 speech in which she said she hoped the rulings of a "wise Latina" would be better than those of a white male without similar experiences. Sotomayor has also received criticism for her more recent rejection of claims filed by fire fighters who said they were not promoted because the city council feared being sued for racial discrimination as no black firefighters scored well enough to be promoted.
"The Ricci case has now gone before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the majority of the justices have given every indication that they are going to give the New Haven firefighters the justice they were so casually denied by Ms. Sotomayor," noted Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Despite concerns, the Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to confirm Sotomayor, though when that would be was uncertain until Tuesday's announcement.
In his statement, Leahy noted that Chief Justice John Roberts was confirmed 72 days after he was designated to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
"Under a similar timeline, Sotomayor's nomination should be confirmed by August 6, before the Senate recesses for August," Leahy stated.
Republicans, however, say they need more time to review Sotomayor's nearly 17-year record on the federal bench and that a September vote would provide plenty of time before the court term begins in October.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, called the Democrats' tactics "heavy-handed" and urged them to reconsider the schedule.
"Let me be clear. ... Because of what our Democratic colleagues are doing and the way they are doing it, it will now be much more difficult to achieve the kind of comity and cooperation on this and other matters that we need and expect around here," McConnell said, according to The Associated Press.
Leahy, however, insisted that the schedule is a "responsible" one "that serves the many interests involved."
Furthermore, the senator said, the justice who takes Souter's place for the court session that convenes Oct. 5 will need as much time as possible before then to hire clerks, set up an office and take part with the rest of the Court in the preparatory work that precedes the formal start of the session.
"I hope that the Republican Senators who are members of the Judiciary Committee will cooperate," Leahy added.