Senate expected to split on SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson

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Senate expected to split on SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson

The Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to split along party lines Monday when it votes on the nomination of Kentaji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court ahead of an expected final confirmation vote by the full Senate later this week.

Jackson is one of seven judicial nominations by President Biden who will be voted on by the 22-member panel during its 10 a.m. meeting, fewer than two weeks after she faced more than 20 hours of questioning about her personal beliefs and record as a judge – particularly her sentencing philosophy. 

The vote will take place hours after The Post revealed that a convicted sex offender to whom Jackson gave a lenient sentence for violating his probation attacked his sister-in-law soon after his release. The case was not discussed during her confirmation hearings. 

All 11 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are expected to vote to report Jackson’s nomination favorably, while all 11 Republicans are expected to vote for an unfavorable recommendation — though it is possible a GOP member will vote for her in committee before voting against her on the floor.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to be deadlocked on the confirmation of SCOTUS nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to be deadlocked on the confirmation of SCOTUS nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

A tied committee vote on Jackson would be first on any Supreme Court nomination since Clarence Thomas in 1991. On that occasion, the panel — chaired by then-Sen. Joe Biden — deadlocked 7-7 before voting to send the nomination to the floor without any recommendation. Thomas was eventually confirmed by the full Senate.

A split committee vote does not kill Jackson’s nomination, but will force Senate Democrats to spend extra time on bringing the matter to the floor. Democratic leaders have said they want Jackson’s confirmation wrapped up before Congress breaks up for its Easter recess at the end of this week.

So far, only one Republican – Sen. Susan Collins from Maine – has vowed to support Jackson, all but ensuring the confirmation of a nominee who only needed all 50 Senate Democrats to support her with Vice President Kamala Harris standing by to break a potential tie.

If confirmed, Jackson will become the first black woman to serve on the High Court, though she would not alter the current 6-3 conservative majority.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Both during and since last month’s confirmation hearing, several Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have criticized the judge’s sentencing of child sex predators, accusing her of being overly lenient.

In announcing his decision to vote against her confirmation, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called her sentencing methodology “flawed.” When questioning her last month, the senator — one of three Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson to the DC appeals court last year — accused Jackson of failing to deter future offenders

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri also focused their questioning on the issue, driving Jackson to the edge of exasperation.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens as she is asked a question from Sen. Marsha Blackburn during her confirmation hearing on March 23, 2022.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens as she is asked a question from Sen. Marsha Blackburn during her confirmation hearing on March 23, 2022.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

At one point, when Hawley asked if she regretted one of the penalties she handed down as being too lenient, Jackson shot back: “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.”

“In every case, I followed what Congress authorized me to do, and looking to the best of my ability [at] all of the various factors that apply that constrain judges that give us discretion, but also tell us how to sentence. And I ruled in every case, based on all of the relevant factors,” Jackson added, shifting the focus on Congress for not enacting updated sentencing guidelines for federal judges.

If confirmed, Jackson will become the first black woman to serve on the High Court, though she would not alter the current 6-3 conservative majority. 

Several Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have criticized the judge’s sentencing of child sex predators, accusing her of being overly lenient.
Several Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have criticized the judge’s sentencing of child sex predators, accusing her of being overly lenient.
Jabin Botsford/Pool via REUTERS

Jackson was nominated by President Biden to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer in February after the president vowed during his campaign to name a black woman to the high court.

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