Jackson returns to private meetings after three marathon hearings
Ketanji Brown Jackson has just completed a historic first – she is now the only Black woman in American history to sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing process.
The 51-year-old jurist now returns to the behind-the-scenes part of the confirmation process as she approaches a vote before the full Senate and a potential appointment to the highest court in the land.
After two marathon sessions before the Judiciary Committee, Ms Jackson has answered questions about her judicial philosophy, her views on the limitations of federal powers, as well as a wide range of topics unrelated to her legal career, including her support of a DC-area private school and prying questions regarding whether she supported Critical Race Theory, a major conservative boogeyman of the past year.
On Thursday, she returned to meeting with senators behind closed doors while members of the Judiciary Committee questioned outside experts called by lawmakers to share their views of her confirmation.
Here’s what’s in store for Ms Jackson in the days ahead:
Will she face any more public hearings?
Not likely. It’s possible, as was the case in the contentious confirmation process that unfolded after the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and accusations surfaced from several women alleging that he had sexually assaulted them. Mr Kavanaugh fiercely denied those charges at an emotional hearing called after his initial confirmation process before the Judiciary panel had concluded.
Democrats have already said that there were no “red flags” in Ms Jackson’s background investigation that necessitated further questioning, and while Republicans could call for further hearings on some unforeseen topic, Democrats would be under no obligation to do so. GOP senators have also spent the past several days denouncing the scenario that unfolded regarding Mr Kavanaugh, and are therefore all the more unlikely to raise further issues with her confirmation than those hashed out before the panel this week.
As such, the next step for Ms Jackson is likely a vote by the Judiciary panel to advance her nomination.
Two votes in the Senate
Ms Jackson will face two tests in the days ahead: A vote by the Judiciary Committee scheduled for next week, and a vote by the full Senate likely sometime in April.
While the Judiciary panel’s vote is by no means as significant as the full Senate’s, it could illuminate whether there’s a chance of Ms Jackson picking up a handful or even significant GOP support in her final confirmation vote.
It’s unlikely that Ms Jackson will receive a wide swath of GOP votes given Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition to her confirmation (as well as that of the national GOP itself), but there are a number of GOP senators who have appeared at least somewhat open to supporting her, including, but not limited to, Sens Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Tim Scott.
Mr Romney in particular has been the most publicly open among the GOP to Ms Jackson’s confirmation, and took the rare step of publicly rebuking some members of his party for questions during the hearings that touched on topics including her sentencing of defendants convicted of possessing child sex abuse images.
Manchin and Sinema appear unshaken by GOP attacks
Two centrist Democratic senators who have been blamed by the party for thwarting Joe Biden’s policy agenda in recent months are not expected to defect from the party line on the issue of Ms Jackson’s confirmation.
Despite three days of withering attacks from Republicans on the Judiciary panel on a wide range of topics, the pair of Democrats are reportedly “unmoved” by claims from the GOP that as a judge Ms Jackson has been “soft on crime”, aides to various lawmakers told Politico.
If the two stand with Democrats next month for Ms Jackson’s final Senate vote, the party will not need a single GOP supporter for Mr Biden’s nominee to become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. Vice President Kamala Harris could cast the decisive 51st vote for Ms Jackson’s confirmation.
The White House and Democrats have still insisted that they are seeking bipartisan support for Ms Jackson’s nomination, citing her credentials and endorsements from a wide range of organisations including the Fraternal Order of Police.
On Thursday after Ms Jackson’s hearings concluded Sen Richard Blumenthal, a Democrats, told Time that he believed there “will be some” Republicans who break rank and vote for her confirmation.
Even the Republican in charge of marshaling his party’s votes in the Senate, John Thune, told CNN that he could see a few Republicans voting for Ms Jackson, citing the three who supported her during her confirmation to the DC Circuit Court, while adding that her chances of picking up GOP votes “probably doesn’t get much beyond that”.