GOP Sen. Graham To Support Sotomayor

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says he will vote for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The South Carolina senator is a member of the Judiciary Committee, which votes Tuesday, and Sotomayor is expected to pass that test easily.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is the latest Republican to say he will vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. He said she does not fit the profile of an activist judge. Here's NPR's Ari Shapiro.

ARI SHAPIRO: During Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, Senator Lindsey Graham signaled he would likely support her. He said then, elections count and President Obama won. Graham repeated that sentiment today.

Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): I feel that he deserves some deference on my part when it comes to his first selection to the Supreme Court.

SHAPIRO: Speaking on the Senate floor, Graham described Sotomayor as the most well qualified Supreme Court nominee in decades.

Sen. GRAHAM: I've looked at her record closely. I believe that she follows precedent, that she has not been an activist judge in the sense that would make her disqualified, in my view - left-of-center reasoning, but within the mainstream.

SHAPIRO: That description makes it more difficult for Graham's Republican colleagues who oppose the nominee to portray her as an extreme activist - more difficult, but not impossible. Shortly before Graham's speech, Arizona Republican John Kyl said he will oppose Sotomayor.

Senator JOHN KYL (Republican, Arizona): I have not been persuaded that Judge Sotomayor is absolutely committed to setting aside her biases, and impartially deciding cases based upon the rule of law.

SHAPIRO: Most Senate Republicans have not yet said how they'll vote on the nominee. Four, besides Graham, have said they will support her. The list includes Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Mel Martinez of Florida, and Richard Lugar of Indiana. Some of the party's leaders have said that they'll oppose her. Republicans have to weigh the political costs of opposing the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court. Latinos are the fastest growing group of voters in the country.

None of the Senate Democrats is expected to oppose the nominee. The Judiciary Committee will vote on Tuesday and then it goes to the full Senate for debate and a vote. Sotomayor could be on the bench by the time the Supreme Court hears its first case, September 9th. As the replacement to Justice David Souter, she is not expected to shift the court much ideologically. Senator Graham said today: On some issues quite frankly, she may be more balanced in her approach.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News Washington.

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