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History Made As Sotomayor Confirmed To High Court

Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor testifies on the third day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill July 15, 2009 in Washington, DC.
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Above: Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor testifies on the third day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill July 15, 2009 in Washington, DC.

The Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor Thursday as the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.

The vote was 68-31 for Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's first high court nominee. She becomes the 111th justice and just the third woman to serve.

Democrats praised the 55-year-old Sotomayor as a mainstream moderate. But most Republicans voted against her, saying she'd bring personal bias and a liberal agenda to the bench.

Senators took the rare step of assembling at their desks on the Senate floor for the historic occasion, rising from their seats to cast their votes.

She replaces retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal named by a Republican president, and she is not expected to alter the court's ideological split.

Still, Republicans and Democrats were deeply at odds over confirming Sotomayor, and the battle over her nomination highlighted profound philosophical disagreements that will shape future battles over the court's makeup as Obama looks to another likely vacancy — perhaps more than one — while he's in the White House.

The GOP decried Obama's call for "empathy" in a justice, painting Sotomayor as the embodiment of an inappropriate standard that would let a judge bring her personal whims and prejudices to the bench.

Her writings and speeches "reflect a belief not just that impartiality is not possible, but that it's not even worth the effort," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader. "In Judge Sotomayor's court, groups that didn't make the cut of preferred groups often found that they ended up on the short end of the empathy standard."

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