8 takeaways from Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Jackson, the first Black female Supreme Court nominee, is “a living witness to the fact that, in America, all is possible.”
WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., defended Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson from incoming GOP attacks on Monday, the first day of her confirmation hearing.
Durbin also invoked the names of three Illinoisans — Sen. Paul Simon and Presidents Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln — in his kick-off opening remarks at the historic hearing for the first Black female nominated to the nation’s highest court.
“You, Judge Jackson, are one of Mr. Lincoln’s living witnesses of an America that is unafraid of challenge, willing to risk change, confident of the basic goodness of our citizens. And you are a living witness to the fact that, in America, all is possible,” Durbin said.
Monday was devoted to opening statements from the 22-member committee, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, on President Joe Biden’s first Supreme Court pick.
Democrats were laudatory. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, the only Black committee member — and one of only three Black senators — was unabashed in reveling in the moment, saying: “This is not a normal day for America. We have never had this day before.”
Critical remarks by Republicans about the “radical left,” defunding the police and Jackson being soft on crime mirrored major, potentially devastating GOP 2022 campaign themes lobbed against Democrats and the Biden administration.
• Unless there is some surprise bombshell, Jackson is on track to be confirmed, since she will have enough Democratic votes. Jackson will replace the justice she once clerked for, the retiring Stephen Breyer.
• Some GOP senators’ opening statements signaled what will be their combative questions when senators get to grill Jackson on Tuesday and Wednesday.
For example, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, pushing a hot button, slammed Jackson over what they thought were her lenient sentences for child pornographers — compared to what prosecutors wanted, anyway.
Blackburn also took on the sizzling issue of transgender athletes and parental rights, saying, “Some girls have been forced to share locker rooms with biological males.”
• Durbin, anticipating these lines of attack, said, “Now there may be some who claim — without a shred of evidence — that you will be a rubber stamp for this president. For these would-be critics, I have four words: Look at the record.”
And as for Jackson, a former public defender, being soft on crime, Durbin said: “Would law enforcement officials and organizations — including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Fraternal Order of Police — have endorsed your nomination if you were soft on crime? Of course not.”
• Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that if Biden had picked a Black female judge from South Carolina Graham was pushing — J. Michelle Childs — then he and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who is Black, would have “stepped up” and rounded up 60 votes for Childs. Graham said “radical” Democrats doomed her chances.
“The attacks from the left against Judge Childs was really pretty vicious, to be honest with you,” Graham said, asserting Jackson was the choice of the “most radical elements of the Democratic Party.”
• Several Republicans, including Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. — a potential 2024 presidential candidate — seizing on another hot-button issue, said they were interested in Jackson’s views on whether to expand the size of the nine-member court, a proposal some Democrats have been pushing. A Biden commission studying the matter declined to make a recommendation.
That’s a trick question, since Jackson’s views do not matter. Only Congress has the power to add Supreme Court members and a president would have to sign the bill.
• On the hypocrisy front, Republicans went after Democrat-allied “dark money” groups, including Demand Justice — whose donors are not disclosed — for taking part in Supreme Court confirmation fights. They conveniently ignored dark money groups on their side, including the Judicial Crisis Network, spending millions of dollars to get President Donald Trump’s three nominees confirmed.
• Durbin hosted three Black politicians from Illinois at the hearing: Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton; state Sen. Mattie Hunter; and state Rep. Kam Buckner, chairman of the Illinois House Black Caucus.
• There have been 115 Supreme Court justices; 108 have been white men.
During this hearing, Jackson said, “I hope you will see how much I love this country.”
No matter the fireworks to come this week — the Jackson hearing is scheduled to run through Thursday — Monday was a day 232 years in the making.