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Sotomayor Likely to Gain Seat on US High Court

Judge Sonia Sotomayor faced three days of questions at her Senate confirmation hearing. Also: President Obama's health reform plan faced new questions about costs. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor appears headed for confirmation to the United States Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings this week to consider her nomination by President Obama.

The nomination is expected to reach the full Senate for a vote before the Democratic-controlled Congress leaves for its August break.

The Supreme Court begins its new term in October. Judge Sotomayor would replace retired Justice David Souter. She would be the first Hispanic and third woman ever to serve on the court.

Some of the questions at the hearing dealt with comments she made in the past. Much attention has centered on a two thousand one speech when she said: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

She told the senators that she regretted the comments. She said she does "not permit personal views, sympathies or prejudices to influence the outcome of cases."

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: "I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging."

She faced three days of intense questioning. Then the committee heard from a list of people invited by Democrats and Republicans.

Some, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, came to support her.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: "As a former prosecutor, commercial litigator, district court judge and appellate judge, she certainly brings a wealth of unique experience."

Others, like Linda Chavez from the Center for Equal Opportunity, spoke against her.

LINDA CHAVEZ: "The record is clear. Identity politics is at the core of Judge Sotomayor's self-definition."

Another witness was Frank Ricci, a firefighter from New Haven, Connecticut.

FRANK RICCI: "Americans have the right to go into our federal courts and have their cases judged based on the Constitution and our laws, not on politics or personal feelings."

Frank Ricci was among a group of white and Hispanic firefighters who sued the city for discrimination. They were denied higher positions because not enough minorities had passed the tests. Judge Sotomayor and two other federal appeals court judges supported the city's decision. But the Supreme Court recently overturned that ruling.

Judge Sotomayor says the ruling followed established law. Even two Republican senators agreed that her rulings have generally been in what they called the mainstream.

Like past nominees, Judge Sotomayor avoided offering opinions on major issues in society. She said doing so could be seen as pre-judging cases that the Supreme Court might consider.

She has began a federal judge for seventeen years. If confirmed, she will be the only one on the court who was a trial judge.

Her hearing was not the only big story in Washington this week. President Obama has been urging Congress to pass health care legislation before its August recess. But he faces growing objections to the estimated costs.

On Thursday the head of the Congressional Budget Office reported that current proposals would sharply expand federal spending on health care.

The president, in a brief statement at the White House Friday afternoon, restated his goal of health care reform this year.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.