Afraid Of NRA, Conservative Democratic Senators Waffle On Sotomayor Vote

Noting Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s record on the Second Amendment, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) told Roll Call that that he is “undecided” on her nomination to the Supreme Court (although he added that he is “leaning toward voting in favor”). Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) expressed similar uncertainty:

“I accept her judicial philosophy of fidelity to the law,” Nelson said during a telephone conference call from Washington.

Nelson said he also believes Sotomayor is committed to supporting settled judicial precedent.

But, he said, he needs to “convince myself she won’t be an activist” on the court.

“I need an opportunity to review a few things,” the Democratic senator said.

Both senators’ equivocal statements come in the wake of the NRA’s decision to “score” the Sotomayor vote in determining where each lawmaker stands on the NRA’s pro-gun agenda. The NRA claims, falsely, that because Sotomayor once upheld a New York law against a Second Amendment challenge this somehow proves that she is hostile to gun rights. That decision, however, did nothing more than apply well-established law.


Because lower-court judges are required by law to follow the commands of the Supreme Court, Sotomayor once joined an opinion which followed a Supreme Court case holding that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to the states. Nevertheless, the NRA launched a smear campaign against Sotomayor this month, claiming that she “deliberately misread Supreme Court precedent to support her incorrect view” in this case.

Frankly, the NRA is either lying, or it doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Not only was Sotomayor correct to follow the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment decision, but a unanimous opinion authored by Federalist Society darling Frank Easterbrook agreed with Sotomayor that state laws are not subject to Second Amendment scrutiny. Even the right-wing of the judiciary understands that judges are not free to ignore the law simply because the NRA doesn’t like it.

In the end, Begich and Nelson’s decision may be decided — not by Sotomayor’s actual record — but by how afraid they are of the NRA.


To his credit, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, is not caving to the NRA’s pressure. “Even though Judge Sotomayor’s political and judicial philosophy may be different than mine, especially regarding Second Amendments rights, I will vote to confirm her because she is well qualified by experience, temperament, character and intellect to serve,” Alexander announced on the Senate floor.