The Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing Ketanji Brown Jackson closer to confirmation, and next week is drafting a vote to recommend her nomination to the full Senate and place her as the first Black woman in the Supreme Court.
Jackson appears to be on a slippery slope to confirmation by mid-April, even though she does not receive the two-party systems President Joe Biden was looking for. Democrats can confirm her without a single Republican vote in the 50-50 Senate, as long as every Democrat supports her. Vice President Kamala Harris could break a tie.
At a brief meeting Monday, Senate Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Dick Durbin set the committee vote for April 4 and praised Jackson’s answers during four days of hearings last week that often became controversial. Republicans on the committee – led by several senators who watch presidential runs – have focused much of the hearings on her sentencing decisions in a handful of child pornography cases during her nine years as a federal judge in an attempt to indulge her ashes against the criminals.
Durbin criticized the Republican focus on the issue, saying the GOP senators “asked the most difficult, common questions and then rushed to Twitter to see if anyone tweeted.” In a speech on the floor of the Senate shortly thereafter, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, one of the Republicans who repeatedly questioned Jackson about pornography issues, defended her colleagues, saying the interrogation was “not an attack.”
The partisan struggle threatened to split Jackson’s confirmation along party lines as Republicans pushed her nomination into a mid-term campaign to paint Democrats soft on crime. Durbin, who like Biden wants a two-party system, said he hopes other Republicans “will not be discouraged by the back-and-forth” when considering whether to support the historic nomination.
So far no Republican has said they will vote for her. Sen. MTC McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader, quoted Republicans’ concerns about her sentencing history, along with her support from liberal advocacy groups, by announcing on Thursday that he “can not and will not” support her.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who met with Jackson for more than an hour and a half earlier this month, is the most likely GOP senator to vote for her. After their meeting, Collins said she believes Jackson follows a “very thorough, careful approach to applying the law to the facts of the case, and that’s what I want to see in a judge.”
Jackson would be the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth wife. She would also be the first former public protector in court, and the first judge with experience representing needy criminal defendants since Marshall.
Jackson dismissed Republicans’ questions about her sentencing in child pornography crimes and said during the trials that sentencing is not a “numbers game.” She noted that there are no mandatory sentences for sex offenders and that there has been significant debate on the subject. Some of those cases gave her nightmares, Jackson said, and were “some of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Monday the interrogation was in “bad faith” and that many Republicans voted for GOP-nominated judges who also sentenced defendants under federal guidelines, as Jackson did.
The April 4 vote will institute a week of procedural maneuvers on the Senate floor aimed at securing Jackson’s confirmation by the end of the week. Durbin said he still had hope for some Republican votes by that time.
“I strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to look after this woman and what she will bring to court,” Durbin said. “She is the best and deserves our support.”