Sen. Menendez: Republicans Will Suffer 'Consequence in Hispanic Community' by Opposing Sotomayor

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

With the Senate set to make Judge Sonia Sotomayor the first Hispanic ever to serve on the Supreme Court, the Democrats’ Senate campaign chief is arguing that Republicans are risking an electoral backlash by opposing her confirmation in large numbers.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said on’s “Top Line” today that Stomayor’s “impeccable credentials” have contributed to “a moment of pride for the Hispanic community throughout this country.”

“You say -- even after we meet all of the hurdles, all of the qualifications, put our best person forward -- that overwhelming parts of the Republican Senate caucus cannot vote for such a person, I think there is a consequence in the Hispanic community as a result of it,” Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic National Senatorial Committee, told us.

Earlier in the day, Menendez’s Republican counterpart, Sen. John Cornyn, told reporters that there would be no such backlash.

“I think that’s just Democratic cheerleading,” said Cornyn, R-Texas.

Cornyn also blasted Democrats for “trashing” Bush-era Latino appointees, such as Miguel Estrada and Alberto Gonzales, while now presenting Sotomayor as an “ethnic product of a certain ethnic group.”

Menendez, however, disputed that point: “It’s simply not the same thing,” he said. “First of all, Alberto Gonzales got supportive Democrats when he was appointed as the attorney general. His actions subsequently created the consequences that he had, and I would note that there were even Republicans who seriously questioned his actions as attorney general . . . ”

“Number two is we’re talking about a United States Supreme Court nominee, and in this respect, no one has had the federal judicial experience that Judge Sotomayor has,” he continued. “So, to the community, it says very clearly that when you have all of that experience, all of that history that is stellar, when you have impeccable intellectual abilities . . . that when you say that such a person with such ability is not going to receive the support, it says to the Hispanic community that this is a party that has a real challenge in finding ways to be supportive of this community.”

Menendez also stood by his endorsement of Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., notwithstanding yesterday’s announcement by Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., that he will challenge him in the Democratic primary.

But Menendez deflected questions about whether he’d campaign for Specter in the primary that’s taking place in his neighboring state.

“President Obama, Vice President Biden, the governor of Pennsylvania [Ed Rendell] are all supporting Arlen Specter. He’s shown himself to be someone who is already very committed to Democratic principles -- voting for Judge Sotomayor , working on health care. We believe that he will be successful in this primary.”

Watch the full interview with Sen. Robert Menendez HERE.

Also today, we chatted with Ana Marie Cox of Air America about former President Bill Clinton’s latest diplomatic mission, plus the Democratic National Committee’s aggressive response to disruptions at health care town halls. Click HERE to see the interview with Ana Marie Cox.

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