Republicans try midterm messaging in Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings

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It was always unlikely that there would be many Republicans voting for confirms Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, and they can only delay — not prevent — becoming the first black female judge. But the GOP was able to use the Judiciary Committee hearings this week as a vehicle to yank its midterm messages.

It is not clear at this stage if and how the war in ukraine and related policy could influence november elections. But when it comes to national issues, several Republicans have seen Jackson as a foil for themes they hope will not only motivate their supporter base but also help sway white suburban voters who have turned away from the party. in the Trump era.

Republicans on the committee focused much of their questioning on crime, critical race theory and gender identity, issues at the center of the current culture war. It was a coordinated effort. The Republican National Committee, for example, tweeted a gif that crossed out KBJ (Jackson’s initials) and replaced it with CRT.

Led by Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, GOP members shaped their opposition strategy around Jackson’s sentencing of child pornography offenders below federal sentencing guidelines. Democrats and the White House argued that such a focus was aimed at flagging far-right conspiracy theory groups like Q-Anon, which promotes false claims about Democrats and child trafficking. The questions posed are “a testing ground for conspiracy theories and culture war theories,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin told the hearings.

“He’s a president presiding over a historic crime wave. So if they want to brush off parents’ concerns about the safety of their children, and if they want to brush off concerns about crime as a conspiracy theory? Bring that argument to the polls,” Hawley told reporters outside the Senate chamber. “Crime is a big issue. It’s big for parents, it’s big for me as a parent. We’re in the midst of a historic crime wave. I think it’s a topic that concerns people. people.”

Hawley’s argument extended to the upper ranks of the GOP. Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the Republican National Senate Committee, told reporters at the party leaders’ weekly press conference that Jackson “seems to be very lenient toward sexual predators, people who have, you know, hurts our children”. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, told CBS News that Jackson is soft on crime, especially when it comes to child pornography. [sentencing].”

Jackson, who served as a district court judge in Washington, referenced her family members in law enforcement and her own experience as a mother who “brought these cases home with me. in the evening because they are so graphic in terms of the kinds of images that describe you.”

She argued that “in each case, I have done my duty to hold the defendants accountable in light of the evidence and information presented to me… The evidence in these cases is stark. The evidence in these cases is among the worst I’ve seen, and yet, as Congress directs, judges don’t just calculate the guidelines and stop Judges must consider the personal circumstances of the individual. ‘charged because it’s a congressional requirement.

Republicans have also focused on gender identity, as several GOP state legislatures across the country have pushed to ban transgender sports. Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn asked Jackson to provide a definition of the word “woman.” Jackson replied that she was not a biologist. Blackburn replied, “The fact that you can’t give me a straight answer on something as basic as what a woman is underscores the dangers of the kind of progressive education we hear about.”

And as questions about teaching students about racism in the nation’s history cause divisions among school boards, parents and activists, Sen. Ted Cruz pressed Jackson on critical race theory, which recognizes racial disparities that have persisted in United States history and provides a framework for understanding how racism is reinforced in American law and culture. The Texas senator referenced a 2015 speech in which she referenced the term and brought various children’s books to the hearing. Jackson said the term “does not appear in my work as a judge. It’s never something I studied or relied on, and it wouldn’t be something I would rely on. if I was on the Supreme Court.”

The days of broad bipartisan support for Supreme Court nominees may be long gone. But the historic nature of Jackson’s naming as the first black woman on the court may have been compelling in another era.

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse told Jackson she’s “going to be a hero” to children and students across the country. Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership who is retiring this year, said he would be happy to vote for the first black woman in the field, but what happens in the hearings should be l most important thing to consider.

“My perspective from day one was that I thought it was absolutely fine for the president to commit to the campaign that this is what he wanted to do. And I had no problem with think now is the time to narrow the field of candidates, to one person representing people who have never served before,” Blunt told CBS News. “But [they] you would obviously have to be good lawyers and have the right temperament to be a good judge. »

Grassley told CBS News that the nature of Jackson’s nomination was not a factor in his decision. “We look at the person’s file, we don’t care if it’s male, female, black, white, Hispanic, ‘a Native American, one of those things,’ he said. “We’re interested in people being constitutionalists, strict constructionists, and not trying to fill in the holes that Congress might leave in the laws.”

The senses. Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski were two of three Republicans to vote for Jackson’s nomination for district court and are considered potential crossovers for that nomination.

Senator Lindsey Graham, weathered the wrath of conservatives when he voted to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, noting then that even though they would not have been his choice, ” elections have consequences,” and he considered them to be good judges with good character. He also voted to confirm Jackson in the district court, but his questioning this week made it clear he had no plans to back her up again. When asked why elements of Jackson’s case relate to him now when they weren’t in her previous confirmation, Graham told CBS News, “The position she holds today could change the law.”

Collins told reporters this week that “my mind is open,” but she wants to review the hearings before making a decision.

Anyone planning to cross the aisle to vote for Jackson will do so without political cover from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announcement Friday in the Senate that he would oppose Jackson’s nomination.

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