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Solons SCOTUS squabble gets racial

While the president prepares to hold a “beer summit” today at the White House to cool racial tensions, perhaps the members of the Senate could use the same thing across town on Capitol Hill.

That’s because the verbal partisan battle over sure-to-be confirmed Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has turned racial.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged his Republican colleagues not to vote against Sotomayor next week. Opposing the first Latina justice, he said, could open GOP lawmakers up to the same backlash they felt after the long and bitter battle over immigration reform.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the head of his party’s Senate campaign committee and Senate Judiciary Committee member who voted ‘nay’ on the nominee, did not like Reid’s comment one bit.

In fact, he accused the Democrats of “giving cover to groups and individuals to nurture racial grievances for political advantage.”

“I don’t think it influences people’s votes, but what it does encourage is a very poisonous – indeed a very toxic – tone of destructive politics,” Cornyn told The Associated Press. “They ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

Brent Wilkes of the League of United Latin American Citizens, who has launched campaigns pushing lawmakers to support the candidate, said that it was Cornyn, not Reid, who was playing the race card.

“It appears to me that they’re deciding to play racial politics,” Wilkes said, adding that opposing Sotomayor would be “a big mistake” for their reelection campaigns. “They will feel the heat from our community.”

The verbal exchange highlights the growing difficulty Democrats are having trying to garner some GOP support for the president’s first Supreme Court pick. That job became even harder last week when the National Rifle Association took the unusual move of announcing that voting for the nominee would affect lawmakers’ rankings come election time. The group has called Sotomayor’s Second Amendment stance “hostile” to gun owners.

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