The Senate Judiciary Committee put off its vote Tuesday on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor for one week amid objections from the panel's conservative Republicans, even as the judge's support among GOP moderates continued to grow.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary chairman, said his panel would vote on Sotomayor's nomination on July 28 and expressed confidence she would win confirmation by a bipartisan vote of the full Senate in time for the Supreme Court's earlier-than-usual first meeting Sept. 9.
His prediction came as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine became the latest Republican to publicly commit to voting for President Barack Obama's first high court pick.
"I know that I will not agree with every decision Justice Sotomayor reaches on the court, just as I disagree with some of her previous decisions," Collins said in a statement. However, she added that she believes Sotomayor "understands the proper role of a judge and is committed to applying the law impartially without bias or favoritism."
Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana, Mel Martinez of Florida and Olympia Snowe of Maine have all announced they would vote for the 55-year-old federal appeals court judge, while some of the most conservative Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have said they'll oppose her.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Judiciary panel, said Sotomayor is still on track for a confirmation vote on a timetable slightly quicker than the one Democrats followed for acting on GOP-nominated Chief Justice John Roberts.
"You moved fast. Some say you didn't go fast enough, some of us said you went too fast," Sessions told Leahy. "Our side's tried to fulfill our responsibilities without any unnecessary delays."
Also Tuesday, the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed Sotomayor, breaking months of silence on her nomination that stemmed from uncertainty about where the judge stands on the legal underpinnings of a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.
"We are pleased that Judge Sotomayor expressed stronger support for the established constitutional right to privacy than either Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito, both of whom had anti-choice records before being nominated to their current positions," Nancy Keenan, the group's president, and Kelli Conlin, the head of its New York chapter, said in a joint statement.
"She also articulated several times throughout the hearing that the constitutional right to privacy includes the right to choose," they said.
NARAL also said it considered the backing Sotomayor has drawn from the Senate's strongest proponents of abortion rights, as well as Obama's consistent support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established the right to choose.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., announced he will vote against Sotomayor because she refused to say during her confirmation hearings that the Second Amendment right to bear arms binds states as well as the federal government — an issue on which the Supreme Court has yet to rule.
Wicker said Sotomayor "shows an alarming hostility toward law-abiding gun owners across the country," and accused her of having an "aversion to impartiality."