The Senate confirms Sonia Sotomayor to become a justice of U.S. Supreme Court. She becomes the first Hispanic to join the nation's highest court.
WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES U.S. SENATE TV - Judge Sonia Sotomayor won U.S. Senate approval on Thursday (August 06, 2009) to become the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Democratic-led Senate voted largely along party lines, 68-31, to approve President Barack Obama's nomination of Sotomayor for the lifetime appointment on the highest U.S. court.
The large number of Republican "no" votes reflected the party's resistance to the Democratic president on several fronts including his bid to overhaul healthcare.
When sworn in, Sotomayor, a federal appeals judge in New York since 1998, will be the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the 220-year-old Supreme Court.
"A more diverse supreme court is a better supreme court," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Sotomayor.
Democrats hailed Sotomayor as fair-minded but Republicans charged she lacked impartiality.
Critics had zeroed in on her past comments that a "wise Latina" woman might reach a better decision than a white man.
At her confirmation hearing Sotomayor offered no apology but said a jurist had to guard against internal prejudice.
In replacing retired Justice David Souter, Sotomayor is not expected to change the court's ideological balance. Souter sided with the liberal wing of the court, which in recent years often issued 5-4 rulings in favor of conservatives.
The appointment underscores an effort by Obama, six months in office, to move the court to the left after eight years of rightward pushing by his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush.
"These core American ideals -- justice, equality, and opportunity -- are the very ideals that have made Judge Sotomayor's own uniquely American journey possible," Obama said. "They're ideals she's fought for throughout her career, and the ideals the Senate has upheld today in breaking yet another barrier and moving us yet another step closer to a more perfect union."