POLITICS
07/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Top Republican Has Effusive Praise For Sotomayor (VIDEO)

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Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, let his Republican counterpart do the heavy lifting on Sunday's Meet The Press, when it came to the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, had effusive words of praise for Sotomayor.

"Let me just say that this lady has got a good record, as Pat said, for a judge," said Sessions, while sitting next to Leahy. "Prosecutor, lawyer, judge, district trial judge, federal judge--she's smart, she's capable."

Sessions didn't end there, adding, "She's got the kind of background you would look for, almost an ideal mix of private practice, trial prosecution and circuit judge. That's strong in her favor."

Sessions warm remarks are an early indication of just how difficult it will be for Republicans to block her nomination.

The debate over Sotomayor's nomination has focused on the notion of empathy and whether a judge should have any. During the news show, Sessions was shown a clip of the current Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito saying at his 2006 confirmation hearing that that he takes personal factors into consideration.

"When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account," said Alito.

Host David Gregory asked Sessions if he thought Alito's approach problematic.

"Well, everybody should have empathy," he said. "Everybody should have feelings and sensitivities to other human beings and show that in their life and their compassion to people. But a judge is required, I think, to be neutral, to rule on the law and the facts and not allow their personal experience to override that. She said in her written remarks that she felt that perhaps even in most cases a person should aspire to overcome their personal experiences, but that they, in most cases, they may not. So that was a pretty troubling thing to me...She needs to have the opportunity to explain this...we'll ask questions about it and she should expect a rigorous but fair hearing."

Ryan Grim is the author of This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America, due out in June