Senate

Five of the most memorable moments from Jackson’s confirmation hearings

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson officially ended on Thursday after four days of grueling questioning, heated exchanges and hours of testimony.

Jackson appeared patient throughout most of the questioning, as GOP senators pressed her on a variety of issues.

Jackson, a historic nominee who would be the first Black woman to serve on the court, is likely to be confirmed. Democrats can win her confirmation if all 50 vote “yes,” and there are no signs of defection. It’s also possible a couple of centrist GOP senators could back her, though that is not certain. 

The committee is set to vote on April 4, with a confirmation vote on the floor later that week.

Here are five of the most memorable moments. 

Jackson decries focus on child porn sentences

Jackson said she was disappointed that much of the focus during the hearing has been on her handling of child porn cases, as several GOP senators criticized what they said were light sentences for those convicted.  

In one instance, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) pressed Jackson on her handling of a case involving an 18-year-old defendant sentenced to three months in prison on child pornography charges after federal prosecutors asked for a two-year sentence, saying the three-month sentence represented a “slap on the wrist.” 

“Judge you gave him three months. My question is do you regret it or not?” he asked her.

“What I regret is that in a hearing about my qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences,” Jackson replied. 

When Hawley continued to ask Jackson whether she used sentencing enhancements, she replied that she had already been asked the question by other senators.

“Senator, I’ve answered this question many times from many senators who have already asked me, so I’ll stand on what I’ve already said.”

Cruz questions Jackson about critical race theory

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday repeatedly questioned Jackson about her views on critical race theory and asked her about several books being taught at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C., where Jackson is on the board of trustees.

The GOP senator specifically brought forward the book “Antiracist Baby,” which argues that babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist and there is no neutrality.

He showed blown-up pages of the book’s illustrations on poster-boards behind him, and asked Jackson if she agreed with the book.

Jackson appeared close to losing her patience with Cruz, answering: “I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas,” Jackson said. “They do not come up in my work as a judge, which I am, respectfully, here to address.”

“I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist or though they are not valued or though they are less than their victims, that they are oppressors. I don’t believe in any of that,” she added. 

Durbin cuts off Cruz

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) cut off Cruz while he was asking Jackson a series of questions on her handling of the child pornography cases, leading to a sharp exchange between the two senators.

Durbin banged his gavel to inform his colleague that his 20 minutes of allotted time had expired and that he was no longer recognized. Cruz protested by saying that Durbin had taken up some of his time by interjecting during his increasingly tense back and forth with Jackson.

“You’re not recognized, senator,” Durbin told Cruz as he pressed Jackson further.

The senators continued back and forth as Cruz repeatedly requested for Jackson to answer his question.

“Why are you not allowing her to answer the question?” Cruz asked, visibly irritated. “Chairman Durbin, I’ve never seen the chairman refuse to allow a witness to answer questions.” 

Durbin then began banging his gavel to bring Cruz to order, which Cruz exclaimed: “Bang it as loud as you want.”  

“I can just tell you at some point you have to follow the rules,” Durbin told Cruz before recognizing Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to begin his 20 minutes of questions.  

Booker praises a tearful Jackson 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) gave a passionate speech declaring how grateful he is for her nomination to the Supreme Court and praised her for how she has handled two days of intense questioning, leading to Jackson tearing up.

“The way you have dealt with some of these things, that’s why you are a judge and I am a politician,” he said. “You have sat with grit and grace and have shown us just an extraordinary demeanor.”

He also warned that Republican attacks focused on the selected criminal cases are setting a “dangerous precedent.”

“There is absurdity to this,” he argued. “It is almost comical if it was not so dangerous.”  

Booker also spoke on his own experience, noting that he was only the fourth Black person ever popularly elected to the Senate. He said he received letters from leaders of victims’ rights groups and survivors of assault supporting her nomination, adding that people of color also are feeling joy over her nomination.

“I want to tell you when I look at you this is why I get emotional,” Booker told Jackson, his voice shaking. “You’re so much more than your race and gender. You’re a Christian, you’re a mom. Your intellect.   

“For me, I’m sorry, it’s hard for me … to look at you and not see my mom, not to see my cousins,” he said.  

He called Jackson a “great American,” saying that she earned her spot. 

Graham asks Jackson about Kavanaugh hearing

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) sparked a fiery exchange with Jackson and Durbin during the hearing when he asked Jackson whether she watched Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing.

Allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh were raised during his confirmation. Kavanaugh denied the decades-old charges. 

Graham and other Republicans have been angry over what they see as a double-standard to how nominees are treated.

“Did you watch the Kavanaugh hearings?” Graham asked Jackson.

After Jackson said she had not but knew of them, Graham asked: “What did you think about the Kavanaugh hearing?”

Jackson said she had no comment, but Graham continued the line of questioning, leading Durbin to grow visibly frustrated. 

Graham then argued that there is a double standard between the treatment of Republican nominees and those nominated by Democratic presidents.

 

 

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Chris Coons Cory Booker Cruz Dick Durbin Durbin Graham Hawley Josh Hawley Ketanji Brown Jackson Ketanji Brown Jackson Lindsey Graham Senate Supreme Court justice Ted Cruz Tom Cotton

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