The 13-6 vote came two months and two days after President Barack Obama named Sotomayor as his choice to succeed Justice David Souter, and it sets up a vote next week in the full Senate, which is expected to confirm her after as many as four days of debate.
All Democrats on the committee voted in favor of her nomination. All Republicans but one — Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) — voted against it, as expected.
In a two-hour committee debate, senators revisited arguments they made for and against Sotomayor’s nomination when they held a hearing this month. Most Republicans accused her of allowing her personal views, as set out in a series of speeches, to influence her rulings. Democrats described a record of restraint from her 17 years as a district court judge and as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
But senators also used the vote to make points about the confirmation process, and to set out standards for battles to come.
“We’ve set expectations, I believe, for future nominations,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), taking pride that Sotomayor backed away from Obama’s statement as a senator that a judge must look to her heart in deciding difficult cases.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said he wasn’t ready to concede that all nominees need to echo conservatives’ rhetoric. “I do not wish judges without empathy — who will ignore the long and proud history of the courtroom as the last stand for many beleaguered Americans,” he said.