Senate

McConnell rips Jackson on ‘court-packing,’ describes answers as evasive

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, March 15, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s performance at her confirmation hearing for providing “evasive and unclear” answers and accused her of secretly supporting calls to add more justices to the Supreme Court.  

While McConnell previously praised Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court, as “a sharp lawyer with an impressive résumé,” he turned notably more critical Wednesday.  

“She’s declined to address critically important questions and ameliorate real concerns. First and foremost is the simple question of court-packing. The far-left fringe groups that promoted Judge Jackson for this vacancy want Democrats to destroy the court’s legitimacy through partisan court-packing,” he said on the Senate floor. “She was literally the court packers pick for the seat, and she has repeatedly refused to reject their position.”  

McConnell noted, as he often does, that both retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer and late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have rejected the idea of adding more justices to the nine-member court and asked why won’t Jackson do the same. 

“Judge Jackson has refused to follow in the footsteps of Ginsburg and Breyer. She refuses to rule out what the radical activists want. She told Sen. [John] Kennedy [R-La.] she does have an opinion on court-packing, but it’s not a strongly held opinion. In any event, she wouldn’t tell the senator what it was.” 

He claimed that Jackson has “made sure to quietly signal openness” to the idea unlike Breyer and Ginsburg, who “slammed the door” on it.”  

“She even told the committee, quote, ‘I would be thrilled to be one of however many Congress thought appropriate to put on the court,’ ” he said.  

McConnell accused Jackson of what he called “a remarkable lack of candor” and criticized her for not describing a fully fleshed-out judicial philosophy. 

“The nominee tried to punt by simply restating the most basic elements of a judge’s job description,” he said.  

Jackson told senators Tuesday that she believes it’s “very important that judges rule without fear or favor.”  

“Over the course of my almost decade on the bench, I have developed a methodology that I use in order to ensure that I am ruling impartially and that I am adhering to the limits of my judicial authority,” she said.

She called the landmark Supreme Court decisions establishing the right to an abortion, notably Roe v. Wade, “the settled law of the Supreme Court” and that precedent, or stare decisis, is “a very important principle.”

McConnell, however, said the nominee dodged questions on other important constitutional subjects.  

“Judge Jackson tried to dodge questions about constitutional interpretation by claiming that she does not have enough experience,” he said.  

“If Judge Jackson fully, truly feels she lacks sufficient experience with constitutional interpretation, then the Senate certainly should not confirm her,” he said.  

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) later took to the floor to rebut McConnell’s claims, calling Jackson “impressive.” 

“It’s clear to anyone watching Judge Jackson’s brilliant legal mind that it was running in high gear. She remains measured and poised and thoughtful as she worked through yesterday’s grueling series of questions,” he said.

He said Jackson “affirmed that she will approach her role” on the court “with prudence” and “a respect for precedent” and would “serve in the same mainstream fashion” as Breyer, whose seat she would fill if confirmed.  

Tags abortion rights Charles Schumer Court-packing Ketanji Brown Jackson Mitch McConnell Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Breyer Supreme Court
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