Sotomayor on track to be Supreme Court judge

WASHINGTON (NBC/WSFA) - Judge Sonia Sotomayor is now one step away from becoming the first Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court. She was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

It's no surprise the Judiciary Committee approved Sotomayor. What is surprising is who voted for her, and who didn't.

Every Democrat voted for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and so did one Republican: South Carolina's Lindsey Graham. "I would not have chosen her, but I understand why President Obama did," he said after his vote. President Obama said he wanted someone with "empathy". Graham said he judged her record.

Not surprisingly, Alabama's Senator Richard Shelby, a republican, opposed the nomination.

"After careful consideration, I will oppose Judge Sotomayor's confirmation to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court," Shelby announced. "During her confirmation hearings and after meeting with her privately, she was unable to allay my concerns regarding two major issues she has considered -- Second Amendment rights and race-based preferences."

Shelby cited several of Sotomayor's cases to justify his decision; Maloney v. Cuomo, a case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit said the Second Amendment doesn't apply to states, and Ricci v. DeStefano, the now famous case in which Sotomayor upheld a lower court's ruling that a group of white firemen could not receive promotions because no minorities passed the same exam.

"Because of my concerns with her willingness to properly and dutifully uphold fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, I cannot, in good conscience, vote in favor of Judge Sotomayor's confirmation," Shelby said.

Others don't see it that way. Sotomayor brings more experience as a federal judge than anyone currently on the Court and would be the Court's first Latina. "Someone whose remarkable life story and varied perspective will add diversity and perspective that the court sorely needs," noted Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold.

It's her "wise Latina" comment that worries Republicans like Orrin Hatch. He's never voted against a nominee until Sotomayor. John Cornyn of Texas, where nearly half the state is Hispanic, also voted "no".  "The stakes are simply too high to vote for someone who could redefine the law of the land from the bench," Cornyn said.

Iowa's Chuck Grassley couldn't get past Sotomayor's comment that "the Court of Appeals is where policy is made." "It's my job to make law because I can be voted out of office if you don't like the laws I make. But judges should be restricted," he said.

Sotomayor will likely be confirmed by the Senate next week with the support of every Democrat in the Senate and as many as five Republicans.