Franken assails Court, Klobuchar slams sexism at Sotomayor vote


Al Franken spewed fire and Amy Klobuchar threw brimstone this morning at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Minnesotans joined 10 other Democrats and one Republican in approving the nominee, but not before Franken raked the current Court and Klobuchar decried bias against women on the bench (video).

Franken was the last senator to speak before the vote, but his statement was perhaps the most arresting as he threw off the mild-mannered mantle of a first-month senator and threw down a gauntlet over high-court rulings he termed “judicial activism.”

It was a theme that he struck more tentatively during committee hearings and today promised to revisit when the nomination reaches the Senate floor.

“Individual rights, individual protections and individual liberties” are under attack by the current Supreme Court, Franken asserted, pointedly citing other senators on specific high-court rulings with which he found fault.

With a vehemence not yet seen in his short tenure in Washington, D.C., Franken took issue with rulings on abortion, voting rights, price fixing, age discrimination, and corporate entanglement in elections.

Noting how court actions have overturned or threatened even recent precedent, Franken said, emphatically, “This is judicial activism. This is a court that’s willing to reverse itself … to achieve its own agenda of what is right. … A vote for Sonia Sotomayor is a vote against judicial activism.”

Minutes earlier, Klobuchar cast Sotomayor as an Everywoman Jurist whose image had been misrepresented by Republicans harping on her now-infamous “wise Latina” statement.

“She knows the law, she knows the Constitution, but she also knows America,” Klobuchar said to both open and close her comments.

Klobuchar said she had bristled at “mostly anonymous question[ing of] Judge Sotomayor’s judicial temperament” and cited her own experience in Minnesota: “Where I come from, asking tough questions and showing very little patience for unprepared lawyers is the very definition of a judge.”

Sexist standards implicit in such critiques “irritated me,” Klobuchar said, adding that the country should ”appoint as many gruff, to-the-point female judges as gruff, to-the-point male judges.”

This morning’s vote was historic for Minnesota: It’s the first time a Democratic senator from the state (let alone two) has cast a vote on a Supreme Court nominee as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Wisconsin is the only other state with two senators on the committee, also both Democrats. Together the two neighboring states accounted for four of the 13 votes that sent Sotomayor’s nomination on to the full Senate.

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