WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor hobbled through a busy day of meetings on Capitol Hill Monday after breaking her ankle in an early morning airport stumble, then boarding a flight from New York to Washington to visit senators who will vote on her confirmation.
The federal appeals court judge, who has been keeping a busy set of appointments with lawmakers, tripped while rushing for her plane at New York's LaGuardia Airport. The White House said she suffered a small fracture to her right ankle.
Sotomayor was keeping her six appointments with senators despite the injury. She entered the Capitol for a meeting with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, on crutches, wearing a white cast covered at the foot with a black soft bootie. Asked how she was feeling, Sotomayor said, "I feel fine, thank you."
The injury changed the tone slightly on an otherwise high-intensity round of meetings that are part job interview for Sotomayor, part preview of a pressure-filled set of confirmation hearings.
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., signed Sotomayor's cast during their session. Her fellow Louisianan, Republican Sen. David Vitter, had a bag of ice and a pillow on hand when the judge arrived at his office, telling her to "please be seated and relax."
"I hope you all note that some Republicans are empathetic too," Vitter quipped to reporters. It was a humorous reference to President Barack Obama's remark that he wanted a Supreme Court justice with "the quality of empathy" -- a concept that has been roundly criticized by conservatives who counter that personal feelings and experiences have no place in a judge's decisions.
Sotomayor chuckled at the comment. "Oh I'm so grateful. Thank you, sir," she told Vitter.
Sotomayor has set a relentless pace since her Capitol Hill debut last week. By day's end Monday, she will have met with one-third of the Senate in just four days of visits.
The White House is pressing for her quick confirmation, and Sotomayor wasn't pausing much for distractions, even her own trip-up. After her arrival in Washington, she went straight to the White House, where a physician examined her and sent her to a local medical office for an X-ray.
The George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates treated and released her, according to a White House statement. She'll likely be limping through most of her confirmation process; Sotomayor said she would be in the hard cast for three weeks and a lighter one three weeks after that.
Sotomayor drew praise Monday former first lady Laura Bush, who said she was pleased Obama had nominated a woman for the Supreme Court.
"I think she sounds like a very interesting and good nominee," Bush said of Sotomayor. She said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that, "as a woman, I'm proud that there might be another woman on the court. I wish her well."