Biden's Supreme Court pick faces grilling from senators

By: AFP
Published: 06:09 PM, 22 Mar, 2022
Biden's Supreme Court pick faces grilling from senators
Caption: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in prior to testifying during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on her nomination to become an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
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The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson are expected to heat up Tuesday as she is grilled by senators in her bid to be the first Black woman on the country's highest judicial bench.

The federal judge, who briefly introduced herself to the American public at the start of the televised sessions on Monday, will face hours of questioning on her sentencing record and judicial philosophy.

Jackson, a 51-year-old Harvard graduate, is widely expected to be confirmed to succeed fellow liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who retires this summer. 

Her addition to the 6-3 conservative-leaning bench will not shift the balance of power but it would make history. Of 115 Supreme Court justices, 108 have been white men. 

After a first day of opening statements from Jackson and members of the Judiciary Committee, the business end of the process begins as senators get 50 minutes each over two days for questions.

"Over the course of the week, I expect the American people will finally see for themselves why Judge Jackson is one of the most qualified individuals ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll out Tuesday shows that 47 percent of voters think Jackson should be confirmed, while 19 percent are against. 

The support is likely partly explained by the Republican strategy -- at least in the early stages -- of not turning the confirmation into a major partisan fight.

Keen to keep the focus on kitchen table issues like inflation that will resonate in November's midterm elections, conservatives have trodden lightly so far, although Jackson can expect a rougher ride over the coming days. 

Without fear or favor

During the first day of hearings, Jackson vowed to defend the "grand experiment of American democracy" and assured senators she always applied the law "without fear or favor."

But the session heard from several Republicans who suggested that the former public defender was "soft on crime." 

Republicans don't have the votes to stop President Joe Biden's nominee from being confirmed, but politicians often use the national spotlight of Supreme Court confirmations to further their own political ambitions.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who rejects widespread speculation that he intends to run for president in 2024, listed several cases he called examples of Jackson being too lenient in sentencing convicts in child pornography cases. 

The Democratic leadership has angrily rejected the accusation, accusing Hawley of selectively picking quotes and context to suit his narrative,  while independent factcheckers have debunked most of Hawley's claims.

Republicans are expected to focus during questioning on Tuesday on committing Jackson to a position on so-called "court packing" -- or efforts to manipulate the bench's membership for partisan ends.

She is also likely to face several hours being interrogated on her judicial philosophy, whether she will seek to interpret the law or to remake it according to her political views.

Senators will dig into her record serving on the US Sentencing Commission and her representation of two Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The hearings are expected to conclude on Thursday and Democrats hope for a Senate vote before the Easter recess in mid-April.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.