During CNN's State of the Union, Pat Leahy tells Jeff Sessions to stop the racial politics when he attacks Sonia Sotomayor's work for the Puerto Rican
July 19, 2009

During CNN's State of the Union, Pat Leahy tells Jeff Sessions to stop the racial politics when he attacks Sonia Sotomayor's work for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Education Fund. Given Sessions' openly racist background, I'd say Leahy went easy on him.

KING: Senator Sessions, do you have any doubt if a Roe v. Wade- type case comes before the court that she is a vote for abortion rights?

SESSIONS: Well, it does seem that way. The organization she was involved with, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, had filed a number of very aggressive briefs in the case...

KING: Now, she says she was an advocate in those days and that was her job.

SESSIONS: Well, that's all right. But they -- I mean, she voluntarily joined and was on the board and her organization advocated that the federal Constitution required that it pay for abortions and the group also opposed any parental consent laws on abortions. So I would assume that that answer was where she will be.

KING: And...

LEAHY: You know...

KING: Go ahead.

LEAHY: ... first off, let me clear up one thing. No one in the White House suggested to me what questions I should ask or I shouldn't ask. And had they done that, I would have just hung up the phone.

I made it very clear in talking to my fellow Democrats on there, you ask any questions you want. We're not there -- it's not the White House conducting this nomination hearing, it's the United States Senate. So nobody had any restrictions on what to ask.

But I would hope that people would not think we picked a Supreme Court justice on just one issue, the issue of abortion. I voted for Supreme Court justices who I'm sure totally disagree with the idea of having abortion legal, just as I voted for some who disagree with the idea of making all abortions illegal. That should not be the issue.

And the idea of trying to say, well, you know, she was on the Puerto Rican defense thing and so we have to ask some questions about that, I hope we don't go back to the day when we used to have African- Americans up for confirmation and say, yes, but you belong to the NAACP, so, you know, we're really suspicious of you.

Come on. Stop the racial politics. This is a person...

SESSIONS: Well, come on, Pat, you...

LEAHY: No, no, no, but...

SESSION: I want to disagree on that.

LEAHY: ... that's what it comes across. That's what it comes across. It comes across...


SESSIONS: Make them...

LEAHY: ... that if you belong to a group that tries to help Hispanics, help them in school, help them in other things, somehow you're suspicious. The same arguments were used against Thurgood Marshall and others. I think it's wrong.

The fact is, she has had more experience on the federal bench than any other nominee, and certainly, Jeff, since you and I have been...

(CROSSTALK) SESSIONS: But, Pat, I want to correct something. No Republican leader said she was a bigot. You've overstated that. There's nothing wrong with us asking about her...

LEAHY: I was talking about Newt Gingrich.

SESSIONS: Her (INAUDIBLE) views about positions -- legal positions that she took as a member of any organization. That's a normal thing to do. And I don't think that was unfair. She said that she thought she was fairly treated. Other commentators, objective leaders, civil rights leaders have said that.

We gave our absolute best to make sure this was a fair hearing, but it had to be vigorous. We had to ask about things that people cared about, her speeches, her prior pleadings that she did and some of her decisions, which are troubling.

But, Pat, you gave us a fair hearing. I appreciate that. A lot of people felt we were pretty tight on time, but you -- when the hearing came up, we had an opportunity. And I appreciate that.

KING: Gentlemen, we're about to run out of time.

Can you help us out?

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