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Congress: Sotomayor clears panel

"President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, moved closer to taking her seat on Tuesday as the Senate Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved her nomination and sent it on to the full Senate," the New York Times writes. "The committee's vote was 13 to 6, with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina the only Republican joining the panel's 12 Democrats in voting for the nomination. The action cleared the way for a Senate floor vote next week for Judge Sotomayor, who would be the 111th justice to serve on the Supreme Court, the first Hispanic and the third woman."

The Boston Globe says Sotomayor passing Judiciary "over near-unanimous Republican opposition - a GOP strategy that analysts say could further alienate Hispanic voters."

Video: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Sonia Sotomayor with only one GOP vote. Rachel Maddow is joined by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, D-CA to discuss the repercussions Republicans may expect from the Hispanic community.

The Senate Finance Committee is getting closer to reaching a deal, the Washington Post says. "An emerging consensus among a bipartisan group of senators is poised to shift the dynamic in the congressional debate over health-care reform and could lead to a final product that sheds many of the priorities that President Obama has emphasized and that have drawn GOP attacks. Three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are expected to wrap up their arduous multi-week talks in the coming days, and Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects a panel vote before the Senate recess, which will begin Aug. 7.

The AP profiles Max Baucus and Harry Reid in their roles in trying to pass health care. "For better or worse, the burden to design a plan that provides health insurance to every American who seeks it without adding to the deficit -- and that can get 60 votes in the Senate -- is falling" to them.

CongressDaily's McPike draws parallels between this health-care fight and 1993. Conservative Grover Norquist said, "I just don't see how the Democrats win unless Republicans make a mistake… There's no reason to imagine it gets easier; it gets tougher. The more people look at it, the less popular it is." But West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller cautions: "There were a lot of Democrats that were very resentful of the Clintons. It wasn't the healthcare plan, it was the Clintons. And you don't get that this time." Obama, he said, has "more running room."

Video: Countdown guest host Howard Dean is joined by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., to discuss why Democrats haven't taken a stronger bargaining position with the Republicans on health care reform and what will be left in the watered-down "compromise" bill now being negotiated by the Senate Finance Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office tells First Read that Obama and AARP aren't the only ones holding tele-town halls. Per his office, Senate Republicans have been hosting health care tele-town halls regularly since June 6. These events, organized by Sen. Lamar Alexander, have drawn over one million callers to date. And they're set to do more before the August recess.

Roll Call: "The Senate Ethics Committee is aggressively investigating whether Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) received preferential mortgage treatment through Countrywide Financial, with sources saying the inquiry could come to a conclusion in the near future. The committee's approach is to 'leave no stone unturned,' said one source familiar with the probe."
 
Dodd: "My conscience is clear in terms of what we did. We negotiated loans, shopped. And the rates they gave us were available readily to the general public."

And card-check opponents keep up the fight with print ads in four Virginia papers. They urge Sens. Warner and Webb to oppose any binding arbitraton compromise.