Is Judge Sotomayor Growing on Republicans?

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WASHINGTON -- After days of hearings on Capitol Hill, Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrapped up her testimony -- clearing another hurdle on the road to confirmation.

Now, it appears Republicans are less likely to block her nomination.

Sotomayor concluded her third consecutive day of questions early Thursday afternoon reassuring, once again, that her comment about "a wise Latina" woman reaching better conclusions than a white male doesn't reflect a personal racial bias.

"I regret that I have offended some people," she said. "I believe that my life demonstrates that that was not my intent to leave the impression that some have taken from my words."

Still, race played a central role in the rest of the hearings.

When Sotomayor was finished, many observers were eager to hear from outside witnesses, some for and some against her nomination.

Two who received the most attention were Frank Ricci and Ben Vargas -- firefighters from New Haven, Conn., who filed a reverse discrimination lawsuit. Sotomayor, along with two other judges, ruled against them as an appellate judge.

At the hearing, it was their turn to speak out against her ruling.

"The lower court's belief that citizens should be reduced to racial statistics is flawed," Ricci said. "It only divides people who don't wish to be divided along racial lines."

Vargas made note of his heritage while making his case.

"I am an Hispanic and proud of the background we share," he said. "But the focus should've been not on me being Hispanic. The focus should've been on what I did to earn a promotion to captain and how my own government and some courts responded to that."

Earlier in the day, Republicans signaled they are becoming more comfortable with Sotomayor moving on to the Supreme Court.

"I will not support a filibuster or nay attempt to block a vote on your nomination," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

The chairman says he'll push for a committee vote next week.

If Sotomayor is confirmed as expected, she will be the first justice appointed by a Democratic president in 15 years and the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court.

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