The GOP grandstanding in the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson keeps getting weirder. Some Republican Senators seem to want to outdo each other with their dramatic declarations that they will not vote in favor of the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court.
There is not a legitimate reason to object to her nomination or confirmation. And yet, Sen. Lindsey Graham claims he can’t dare vote to support her. He also insists that Republicans would not have even given her a hearing if they were in charge in favor of someone more moderate.
If only Graham had the chance to support someone more moderate? Oh wait, he did in 2016 when President Barack Obama nominated then Judge Merrick Garland.
Despite saying pleasant things about Garland, Graham joined his Republican colleagues in blocking the confirmation process. Garland never even got a chance to have a hearing when he was nominated in 2016. At the time, NPR described Garland as a moderate who had a record of Republican support.
Graham also stalled Garland’s nomination as attorney general by President Biden early last year. Garland ultimately was confirmed, but Graham did everything in his limited power to obstruct a second confirmation process.
While Graham tried to claim that he thought favorably of a more moderate potential nominee for SCOTUS in Judge Michelle Childs from South Carolina, we’ve already seen how he has acted when a Democratic president has nominated a moderate.
Faced with a similar scenario four years later and an event tighter election timeline, Republicans suddenly forgot their values. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died in 2020, less than two months before the presidential election, Republicans rammed through the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Barrett also had significantly less judicial experience than Jackson. Mother Jones called her the least experienced nominee in 30 years.
But what also makes Graham’s shenanigans laughable is that he just voted to confirm Jackson last year for another judicial position with a lifetime appointment.
Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski joined Graham in supporting Jackson’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit just last year. Her record has remained unchanged in the past year. Jackson’s prior appointment was also for a lifetime appointment, and yet suddenly, Graham is against her.
So much for being a man of principles.
According to MSNBC Host Medi Hasan, Collins and Murkowski will support Jackson’s nomination again with Sen. Mitt Romney joining them. Romney voted against confirming Jackson last year.
After reviewing Jackson’s record, Romney tweeted that he found her to be a “well-qualified” jurist. The American Bar Association unanimously found her “well-qualified,” and representatives from the legal organization provided glowing testimony during the confirmation process.
Garland’s nomination followed the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than seven months before the 2016 presidential election. At the time, Republicans Senators claimed that it was too close to an election and the next president should have the right to choose Scalia’s replacement.
For as much as certain senators go on about the sanctity of the institution, they very quickly throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. Per Article III of the Constitution, the president has the authority to nominate judges and Supreme Court justices. It is for the Senate to confirm them.
Confirmation hearings have a history of trying to prevent diverse candidates from making it to the bench. The first confirmation hearing took place over 100 years after the first group of Justices took the bench. It wasn’t until a Jewish man, Louis Brandeis, was nominated that suddenly a confirmation hearing was deemed necessary.
Some of these senators who talk about the “honor” of the institution when it comes to a procedural obstacle, like the filibuster, think it’s ok not to do their job and vote on a nominee.
And in this case, they don’t like this Black woman and all she represents for forward progress and the future of the Court.
Graham isn’t alone in the overtures and grandstanding. Sen. Ted Cruz, who knew Jackson while at Harvard Law, went out of his way to distort his former classmate’s record and experience on and off the bench. His fixation on her presence on the board of a progressive D.C. private school is laughable considering his children also attend a school with an express commitment to anti-racism.
Also, any issues Republicans have with prior confirmation hearings including the handling of credible sexual assault claims have nothing to do with Jackson or her confirmation. Graham, Cruz and several other Republican members of the Judiciary Committee colleagues disrespected Jackson and the process itself.
Disagree with her, or just say you refuse to vote for her because you’re sticking to a party strategy. But pretending this is about honoring the process or institution, is not it.
While a sitting president does not owe members of the opposing party a particular nominee, in the past, some have considered specific objections in hopes that a confirmation process can move forward without too many issues.
Republicans can’t articulate a valid reason to object to Jackson, and despite trying to sugarcoat the vitriol, their objections are rooted in partisan obstructionism and nothing more. And in this case, someone more “moderate” is code language for the status quo of a prosecutor or corporate lawyer who is unlikely to rock the boat.
We’ve seen the national influence Justice Sonia Sotomayor has made with her epic dissents. Imagine adding another Justice or two to her side on the bench? It will take a lot more to shift the balance of power on the bench, but the possibility for the future is real.
When Chief Justice John Roberts was confirmed in 2005, 22 Democrats joined 55 Republicans in supporting his nomination. Polling shows that Jackson tied Roberts with the highest favorability for a nominee in recent history.
Also, Jackson’s confirmation is a part of the broader Biden Administration’s commitment to having a federal judiciary that is representative and reflective of the American people. Having federal judges and Supreme Court justices who have no experience in indigent defense, let alone working as a public defender, leaves out a necessary perspective in the nation’s criminal legal system.
And yet, the majority of Senate Republicans would have you believe Jackson’s nomination was the beginning of some attack on Democracy. As a former public defender, Jackson’s confirmation will add a new dimension previously absent from the Court.
But if anyone knew anything about undermining Democracy, like by trying to interfere with an election, Graham and crew would know.