Day 2 Of Ketanji Brown Jackson's Senate Confirmation Hearings : Consider This from NPR Tuesday was the second day of Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearings. She would be the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice, and the first Democratic nominee to be confirmed since Elena Kagan in 2010. A vote on her nomination could come in weeks, and Democrats have the votes to confirm her without Republican support.

NPR political correspondent Juana Summers spoke to black women working to support Jackson's historic nomination.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson Is Poised To Make History

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DICK DURBIN: This hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee will come to order.


Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is the fourth Supreme Court nominee to face the Senate in the last six years, so the choreography might feel familiar.


KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: Thank you for convening this hearing and for considering my nomination.

SHAPIRO: A grateful nominee promising to always be independent on the bench...


JACKSON: And apply the law to the facts of the case before me without fear or favor.

SHAPIRO: ...And senators of both parties...


SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: The Federalist Society and all these big fat cat dinners...

SHAPIRO: ...Using their time.


MARSHA BLACKBURN: Parental rights appear to be under assault by the radical left.

SHAPIRO: ...Pretty much however they want.


JOHN KENNEDY: I've never believed that the Bill of Rights was there for the high school quarterback.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Could you fairly judge a Catholic?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Do qui tam suits violate the Appointments Clause?

JACKSON: So, Senator, I'm - I am not familiar with that representation.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Could you answer in writing, then?

JACKSON: Well, I'd be happy to do whatever. I'm just trying to...

SHAPIRO: Some of that is par for the course, but in an important way, this is not an ordinary Supreme Court confirmation. Ketanji Brown Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And Senate math means Democrats could confirm her without any Republican votes.


DURBIN: Nobody has looked me in the eye and told me how they're going to vote on either side, for that matter. So I'm not presuming anything.

SHAPIRO: Dick Durbin of Illinois, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told NPR on Monday he's working to make sure Jackson receives Republican support as well.


DURBIN: I'm going to work to make this a bipartisan roll call. It's good for the Senate. It'd be good for the Supreme Court.

SHAPIRO: CONSIDER THIS - with or without Republican votes, Democrats have the numbers to confirm Jackson on their own and cement her place in history. Her supporters, including many Black women, are working hard to make sure that happens. From NPR, I'm Ari Shapiro. It's Tuesday, March 22.

It's CONSIDER THIS from NPR. Some Supreme Court nominations get ugly and some get really ugly.


BRUCE SELYA: And I think hers is likely to be in the former class...

SHAPIRO: Judge Bruce Selya, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and a longtime friend of Ketanji Brown Jackson, spoke to NPR on Tuesday.


SELYA: ...Mainly because I see absolutely nothing in her record, her background, her character that presents any basis for a fair attack on her.

SHAPIRO: One line of attack Republicans have flirted with is about Jackson's history as a public defender. They argue that experience would make her soft on crime in some way. Here's Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, last week.


MITCH MCCONNELL: We're in the middle of a violent crime wave, including soaring rates of homicides and carjackings. Amid all this, the soft on crime brigade is squarely in Judge Jackson's corner.

SHAPIRO: Well, in Tuesday's hearing, Jackson responded.


JACKSON: As someone who has had family members on patrol and in the line of fire, I care deeply about public safety.

SHAPIRO: Jackson noted her brother was a police officer in Baltimore and two of her uncles were career law enforcement officers. The National Fraternal Order of Police also supports her nomination.


JACKSON: And our system is exemplary throughout the world precisely because we ensure that people who are accused of crimes are treated fairly.

SHAPIRO: So far, at least as of Tuesday afternoon, Jackson's confirmation has proceeded without the acrimony of some other recent Supreme Court nominations, and some Republicans have recognized their role in a history-making moment. Here's Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Monday.


GRAHAM: Congratulations. Well-Deserved honor here. You have worked hard all your life, and you have much to be proud of. I have said in the past that I think it's good for the court to look like America. So count me in on the idea of making the court more diverse.

SHAPIRO: Well, Graham may like that idea, but in this case, he signaled to reporters on Tuesday that he would not vote to confirm Jackson to the high court, even though he did vote to confirm her just last year to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. But Democrats don't need his vote or votes from any of the Republicans. They have the numbers to confirm Jackson on their own. And on Tuesday, Jackson touched on what that would represent. She was born in 1970. That year, her parents moved from Miami to Washington, D.C. They were looking for new opportunities, new freedoms that had been made possible by two landmark civil rights bills passed by Congress just a few years earlier.


JACKSON: The fact that my parents, when they were growing up in Miami, Fla., attended and had to attend racially segregated schools, and my reality was completely different. I went to a diverse, public junior high school, high school, elementary school. And the fact that we had come that far was, to me, a testament to the hope and the promise of this country.

SHAPIRO: Jackson's story, the hope and promise she represents, is what inspired hundreds of people, many of them Black women, to gather on the steps of the Supreme Court this month.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Who do you want confirmed?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Ketanji Brown Jackson.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Say it one more time.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Ketanji Brown Jackson.

SHAPIRO: Those women and others around the country are Ketanji Brown Jackson's first line of defense against Republican attacks, and they're working to help her share her story with the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Can I get an amen?


SHAPIRO: My colleague Juana Summers spoke with some of them, and she takes it from here.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: A group of seven Black women posed for a photo on the steps in front of the Supreme Court building. They were all wearing these matching shirts with Jackson's photo in the center. I asked one of the women to tell me about them.

PETEE TALLEY: The shirt is Biden has nominated a woman who is supremely qualified for this position.

SUMMERS: This is Petee Talley from Toledo, Ohio. She said she wanted to support Jackson because she expects that Republicans may try to discredit her during the confirmation process, despite the fact that she has been approved by the Senate three times before.

TALLEY: Well, we just, again, want it to be fair. She's qualified. She's supremely qualified. And we just don't want to hear any foolishness about anything because it's not there.

SUMMERS: Some of the women were wearing bold colors - pink and green, royal blue, crimson - representing some of the historically Black sororities that are part of the Divine Nine. Dressed in the brilliant red of Delta Sigma Theta, Bettieanne Hart said she wasn't sure she'd ever see a Black woman nominated to the court.

BETTIEANNE HART: I'm 73 years old. I'm a child of the '60s. And this is just a dream come true.

SUMMERS: Hart is a former state legislator from Atlanta and has been practicing law for more than four decades. I asked her what she'd be doing during the confirmation hearings.

HART: I think that she's in for a very contentious and rude process, and I will just be there in spirit and watching and covering her with prayer.

SUMMERS: What makes you expect that the process will be rude and contentious and challenging for her?

HART: History - and let's face it, what - everything that she stands for, everything she represents.

SUMMERS: She motions behind her toward the court.

HART: Everything that she stands for, everything she represents, is something that was never designed to be in the justice halls. And so she doesn't expect an easy ride, and none of us expect an easy ride for her.

SUMMERS: That idea, that this process could look different for Jackson, is why Black women say they began to strategize even before President Biden announced that he would nominate her. Biden promised, as a candidate, that he would nominate the first Black woman to the court, and he reaffirmed that when Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement. Shortly after, the Congressional Black Caucus set up what it's calling a war room to mobilize around the president's nominee, whoever she would be. This is Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty.

JOYCE BEATTY: We wanted to make sure that we were positioned, we had a voice and that we wanted the hearings to start immediately and that we were going to be dealing with anything that was not aboveboard in the hearings and in her confirmation.

SUMMERS: As the hearings kickoff, Beatty says that members of the caucus, particularly the nearly 30 Black women members, will be visible.

BEATTY: We will be present in the first day and second and third and fourth days of her confirmation hearing. We will be on every national platform, whether invited or not. We will impose ourselves there because the nation will be watching.

SUMMERS: The effort by Black women to mobilize around Jackson underscores the history that Jackson will make if confirmed, as well as its importance to Black women, who have long been the Democratic Party's most reliable voters.

GLYNDA CARR: We've spent a lot of time talking about how Black women voters are a powerful voting bloc. But we also organize our house, our block, our church, our sorority and our unions.

SUMMERS: That's Glynda Carr. She runs Higher Heights for America, a group that supports Black women in politics. She says, now, the same women who have boosted Democrats at the polls for years, are organizing behind Jackson.

CARR: You know, I was on a call the other day, and there are Black women who are like, I am coming to D.C. I might not be able to be in that hearing room, but it is something about, you know, just being in this moment.

SUMMERS: Biden's promise to name the first Black woman to the court brought with it critiques from some Republicans that the choice should be solely based on merit without considering race or gender. This is Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas on a recent episode of his podcast.


TED CRUZ: If he came and said, I'm going to put the best jurist on the court, and he looked at a number of people and he ended up nominating a Black woman, he could credibly say, OK, I'm nominating the person who's most qualified. He's not even pretending to say that. He's saying, if you're a white guy, tough luck.

SUMMERS: A comment that has resonated among Black women came, not from a member of the Senate, but from Fox News host Tucker Carlson.


TUCKER CARLSON: So it might be time for Joe Biden to let us know what Ketanji Brown Jackson's LSAT score was. What - how'd she do on the LSATs? Why wouldn't you tell us that?

TARA SETMAYER: That's the type of misogyny and otherism (ph) that Republicans often apply to women of color and, particularly, Black women.

SUMMERS: Now, this is Tara Setmayer. She is a conservative, but broke with the Republican Party several years ago. She says Republicans should zero in on Jackson's judicial record.

SETMAYER: They should focus on her rulings and her interpretation of the Constitution. That's what matters. Unfortunately, I don't think they're going to go that way.

SUMMERS: Some Black women say they hope to see the White House and the president himself play a prominent role in supporting the first Black woman named to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Juanita Tolliver, a Democratic strategist, said she was surprised Biden didn't talk more about Jackson in his State of the Union address.

JUANITA TOLLIVER: I did a double take. I said, oh, is that it? I felt like it warranted a lot more space, not only for the historic nature of it, but also the political implications, right?

SUMMERS: Tolliver said she hopes that next week the White House makes a point of forcefully elevating Jackson's profile.

TOLLIVER: This is the first Black woman being confirmed to the Supreme Court, someone who the president selected. And he absolutely should take every opportunity to not only defend her from racist and misogynistic attacks during the confirmation hearings, but to celebrate her once this confirmation is complete.

SUMMERS: Back outside of the Supreme Court last week, Gwendolyn Thompson of Maryland said she wanted to send a signal to the Senate that Black women care about what happens in the confirmation process.

GWENDOLYN THOMPSON: I remember when we didn't have a man on the moon (laughter), if you understand what I'm saying. So it's a step. We're not living on the moon, but we got a step. You understand what I'm saying? So that's what it means to me.


SHAPIRO: Gwendolyn Thompson spoke to NPR political correspondent Juana Summers. It's CONSIDER THIS from NPR. I'm Ari Shapiro.

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