Vote on Jackson's nomination could come as early as Monday
The Senate Judiciary Committee has wrapped up the third day of confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson, the federal judge whom President Biden has picked to fill retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's seat.
As the panel wrapped up today, Chairman Dick Durbin announced that the committee will meet in executive session on Jackson's nomination on Monday. The panel’s rules allow for any committee business to be held over for one week, which could push the vote to April 4.
In the second day of questioning Jackson, Republicans revisited themes from Tuesday, intensely grilling her on the length of sentences she has handed down in child pornography cases. She also faced questions about her view on cameras in the courtroom and her judicial philosophy. In a moving moment that led Jackson to wipe away tears, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., lauded her historic nomination. If she is confirmed, Jackson would become the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice.
- Catch up: Read a recap from the first day and the second day.
- Analysis: 4 takeaways after 3 days of hearings
- Judge Jackson primer: Read a profile from when she was named as Biden's Supreme Court nominee
Scenes from the third day of Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearing
Here are some scenes from the third day of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing will hear from outside witnesses on Thursday.
Durbin sets vote for Jackson's nomination for Monday
The Senate Judiciary Committee could vote on Monday, March 28, on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sen. Dick Durbin, the panel’s Democratic chair, said at the end of today’s hearing.
Durbin said the committee will meet in executive session on Jackson's nomination on Monday but the panel’s rules allow for any committee business to be held over for one week, which could push the vote to April 4.
Jackson is expected to have enough votes for her nomination to proceed to the full Senate. It is as yet unclear if any Republican senators will vote for her.
Jackson underwent several hours of questioning today — after being questioned for about 13 hours on Tuesday. Many Republican senators focused on what they deemed her lenient sentencing of child pornography defendants, though her sentences were within the range of sentences by the overwhelming majority of judges around the country.
Thursday’s session will focus on character witnesses speaking on Jackson’s behalf and critics of her nomination.
Booker brings Jackson to tears with stirring words
In moving remarks, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said he was emotional at the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Booker said Jackson is an extraordinary testament of what can be accomplished against the odds.
“I want to tell you when I look at you, this is why I get emotional," Booker said. "I’m sorry — you’re a person that is so much more than your race and gender.”
Booker noted that Jackson is a Christian, a mother and an intellect and that she has a love of books.
Jackson and others in the audience wiped away tears as Booker spoke. He also became emotional at times.
He noted in one example how the film Hidden Figures finally elevated recognition for the work of Black women behind the NASA program.
Booker mentioned her parents' love for their country, even though their country "didn't love them back."
"All these people loved their country," Booker said.
“You faced insults here that were shocking to me — well, actually not shocking," he said. "But you are here because of that kind of love, and nobody is taking that away from me.”
Some Judiciary Republicans request more information on Jackson's record
Ten Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans requested in a letter to see pre-sentencing reports tied to past cases of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
The debate to see such reports is tied to arguments led by several panel Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, to review recommendations in such cases.
The reports are from child pornography cases, and such a request has never been made for pre-sentencing reports, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
"They can contain highly sensitive personal information, not just about the defendant but about innocent third-party victims," Durbin said.
The request will need to be discussed between the parties, Durbin said.
"I think we ought to think long and hard about whether or not we even consider going into pre-sentence reports, so I'm going to take this matter up with our side and I'm sure you will with your side," Durbin told Republicans.
Cruz argued that victim information can be redacted.
"You are right that there can be sensitive victim information in those reports," Cruz said.
Correction: An earlier photo caption mistakenly said Sen. Ted Cruz was the person on the right. He's the person on the left.
Sasse says cameras could hurt Supreme Court, uses Congress as Exhibit A
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said he opposes allowing cameras in the Supreme Court, repeating his long-held argument that they would have a damaging impact.
During an exchange with Supreme Court nominee Kentanji Brown Jackson, Sasse said the Capitol serves as an example of why the highest court in the land should not incorporate cameras.
“I think we should recognize that the jackassery we often see around here is partly because of people mugging for short-term camera opportunities,” Sasse said.
The comments came as several Republicans have launched attacks against Jackson that have become key sound bites for those opposed to her nomination. Earlier, Sasse also said cameras often impede the work of Congress.
“A huge part of why this institution doesn't work well is because we have cameras everywhere,” Sasse said. “Cameras change human behavior. We know this.”
During his questions, Sasse also prodded Jackson to talk about debate in law school, saying it would help for students to hear Jackson’s endorsement for vigorous debate.
“You’re going to be a hero. You are already a hero to lots and lots of kids,” Sasse said.
Republicans keep bringing up one group when they talk about 'dark money'
With Republicans and Democrats trading accusations of letting “dark money groups” drive the course of selecting the next Supreme Court justice, one name keeps popping up: Demand Justice.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., described Demand Justice as a group exerting heavy influence on the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers in order to “pack the court.”
A progressive nonprofit, Demand Justice does advocate for expanding the Supreme Court, by four seats. It says that this will restore balance on a court currently dominated by conservatives, three of whom were nominated by former President Donald Trump, a Republican.
At the same time, it is also pressing to increase the number of lower courts to deal with a quickly growing number of cases. Demand Justice also calls for establishing term limits for the justices, creating a code of ethics for the highest court in the country and adding diversity to the bench.
Demand Justice is run by Brian Fallon, who used to work for the most powerful senator in the Democratic Party — Chuck Schumer. It was started in 2018, long after similar dark money groups on the conservative side began working to help shape the judicial branch. While many Republican activists had made the judiciary and Supreme Court appointments a leading cause years earlier, Democrats were mostly focused on single issues, such as civil rights, until Trump took office.
Demand Justice has made its support of Jackson’s confirmation no secret, buying $1 million in airtime for ads featuring leaders of progressives causes, women’s groups and the National Education Association teachers union pressing the Senate to confirm Jackson “without delay.” It has also helped organize events this week to rally support for Jackson, with more than 100 Black law students from across the U.S. in Washington, D.C.
Demand Justice has not met with Jackson, and when asked if the group consulted with the White House about her selection, a spokesman pointed to reporting about a letter that it, along with other progressive groups, sent Biden, asking him to nominate someone with public defense or civil rights experience.
The term “dark money” refers to politically active tax-exempt organizations that do not have to disclose their donors. They are still required to submit filings with the IRS, and Demand Justice plans to file Form 990 for nonprofits later this year.
According to OpenSecrets, Demand Justice spent $3.73 million on communications in the 2020 election cycle, including $414,424 spent on targeting Tillis.
Jackson reveals she'd plan to recuse herself from Harvard affirmative action case
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has revealed that if confirmed to the Supreme Court, she intends to recuse herself from a high-profile affirmative action case because of her ties to Harvard University.
Asked by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, about a potential recusal, Jackson replied: "That is my plan, senator."
Jackson is a member of Harvard's Board of Overseers, with a term that expires this spring. She's also a graduate of Harvard College and (with Cruz) Harvard Law School.
The case in question is significant. The Supreme Court will weigh the use of race as a factor in admissions at both Harvard and the University of North Carolina. Conservative groups have alleged that the universities' admissions policies discriminate against Asian Americans.
Graham revisits Kavanaugh confirmation process
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., revisited the bitter 2018 Senate confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh during a heated moment during the second day of questioning of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault in high school, accusations he denied.
"She had nothing to do with," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who's also the Senate majority whip, said before Graham cut off his response.
"No, but I'm asking her about how she may feel about what y'all did," Graham shot back.
"You won't even let her finish her response," Durbin said, saying Graham's time had expired and Jackson would get time to respond.
Jackson said she did not watch those hearings and said she was "generally" aware of what happened but that she had no comments about what happened.
Rather, Jackson said she wanted to revisit Graham's original questions about sentencing related to child pornography cases. Jackson told Graham that sentencing guidelines create a range within which judges issue decisions, with their discretion.
"The point of the guidelines is to assist judges in determining what punishment to provide in cases," Jackson argued. "And they are horrible cases, but the idea is that between the range of punishment that Congress has prescribed, judges are supposed to be providing proportional punishment based on what a person has done."
Later, speaking to reporters outside the hearing, panel member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., responded to Graham's questioning, calling it an "abrogation of everything the Senate stands for."
"You had a Republican member who went way the over time allotted, ignored the rules of the committee, badgered the nominee, would not ever let her answer the questions," he told reporters. "I've never seen anything like it. I've been here 48 years.”
Jackson has said Justice Thomas learned different lessons from the segregated South
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been careful and controlled in her long hours of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has painstakingly tried to show she would be a “neutral” arbiter in cases and not try to tip her hand in any direction.
She has even repeatedly talked about adhering to the text of the Constitution and the original intent of the Framers. Just before a break on Wednesday, she also talked about her background and what would inform her decision-making.
"What I would hope to bring is what 115 other justices have brought,” she said, going on to cite life experiences, having been a judge, a public defender and a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, “in addition to my being a Black woman.”
If confirmed, she would be the first Black woman to sit on the bench and only the third Black justice overall.
During the second day of questioning, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked Jackson if she celebrated when conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, only the second Black justice to serve on the court, was nominated in 1991.
“I believe I did. Yes,” she responded.
But before anyone thinks Jackson would rule like Thomas, consider that she was quoted in a 2007 book talking about what she thought of Thomas during a lunch she had with him when she clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court.
“ ‘You sound like my parents. You sound like the people I grew up with,' " Jackson said she thought during the lunch, according to the book. “But the lessons he tended to draw from the experiences of the segregated South seemed to be different than those of everybody I know.”
In the second day of questions, there's a revisiting of themes
At the start of the second day of questioning Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee broadly revisited themes from a day earlier.
From Jackson's historic nomination to her judicial philosophy to Republican attacks on her record — all were revisited in the day's first two hours. She was also asked again about expanding the size of the court; yesterday, she said it was a matter for lawmakers, not court nominees.
"This is a tough assignment, and many have risen to the challenge, but not as well as you did yesterday," Judiciary Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Jackson at the start of the day.
Durbin said many of the remarks by Republicans taking aim at Jackson's record have to be put into context, and he said many were politicized.
"The 'soft on crime' charge, which leads on all others, falls on its face," said Durbin, noting Jackson's background in criminal justice and the law enforcement background of her family, which includes several relatives who have worked in policing.
"We looked up to them, and we understood through their service what it meant to give back to your community," Jackson said about her family's police work.
Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn took issue with Durbin's remarks so far, especially after Republicans raised issues with Jackson.
"I don't think it's appropriate for the chairman after every time somebody on this side of the aisle asks questions of the judge, you come back and you denigrate and you attack," Cornyn said.
Dr. Patrick Jackson, husband of Ketanji Brown Jackson, has been sporting socks with flair
Dr. Patrick Jackson has been sporting colorful socks with the faces of former U.S. presidents during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for his wife, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
He's been sitting behind her during all three hearing sessions this week, though he's not expected to attend tomorrow, the last day, when the committee will hear from witnesses.
The last update from the Supreme Court said Justice Thomas was still in the hospital
As Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson entered day 3 of her Senate confirmation hearing, her potential future colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas, appears to have remained hospitalized with an undisclosed infection.
Thomas, 73, was admitted to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., on Friday evening after experiencing "flu-like" symptoms, according to a statement from the Supreme Court on Sunday.
"He underwent tests, was diagnosed with an infection, and is being treated with intravenous antibiotics. His symptoms are abating, he is resting comfortably, and he expects to be released from the hospital in a day or two," read the court's statement Sunday.
Yet as NPR's Nina Totenberg reports, the last official update from the court on Thomas' health was on Monday, with an announcement that he did not have COVID-19.
Nina has reported that the court has at times lacked transparency about justices' health.
The court is holding arguments today. At the beginning of them, Chief Justice John Roberts said that Thomas is "unable to be present today." He noted that Thomas will still participate in the decision based on written materials and recordings of the arguments.
Republicans are expected to return to hot-button issues, Democrats likely to tout credentials and endorsements
Ketanji Brown Jackson sat for more than 13 hours of questions on Tuesday, fielding inquiries from 20 of the members of the Senate Judiciary panel. She addressed questions about her time representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay as a public defender, handing down sentences in child sex abuse cases as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, her views on critical race theory and her opinions as a judge on the federal bench.
Wednesday's hearing will start out with the two members that did not get a chance or their first round of questions — Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. — with 30 minutes each.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., scheduled a second round of questions for members of the panel to last 20 minutes each. Any subsequent round of questions would be limited to 10 minutes per senator on the committee. The committee also gives members of the panel through Thursday to submit any questions in writing that they did not get the chance to ask during the hearings.
With several Republicans on the panel echoing the same lines of questioning — how Jackson decided sentences for those convicted in child pornography cases, why she argued for detainees labeled enemy combatants — it is likely these issues could resurface during Wednesday's session.
Democrats pointed to cases in which Judge Jackson demonstrated her independence. Delaware Sen. Chris Coons highlighted a case when she ruled against environmental groups and in favor of the Trump administration in a case related to building the wall on the Southern border. Other Democrats touted endorsements from retired conservative judges and law enforcement groups, something they might remind those watching the hearing on Wednesday.
Durbin served as a proxy at times for Jackson during Tuesday's session, interjecting some comments related to exchanges she had with GOP members like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Texas Sen. John Cornyn about detainees.
Depending on the tenor of the exchanges in the second round, Durbin might decide to use a firmer hand with the gavel if he determines comments to be out of line.
A look at photos from the first two days of confirmation hearings
Here are some photo highlights from the first two days of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic Supreme Court confirmation hearing. The third day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is slated for Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.