Senate Republicans — who know they in all probability received’t be capable of stop Ketanji Brown Jackson from being confirmed to the Supreme Courtroom — opened her affirmation listening to by specializing in one thing else: outdated grievances.
A number of Republicans, together with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), sought to attract a direct distinction between how Jackson is being handled and the way Supreme Courtroom Justice Brett Kavanaugh was handled throughout his listening to in 2018. Repeatedly, senators famous that Jackson’s questioning would concentrate on her authorized document and never what they known as the “private assaults” Kavanaugh skilled, when he was confronted with allegations of sexual assault. In doing so, they downplayed the allegations introduced towards him and tried to recommend that their therapy of Jackson this week could be an enchancment upon how Democrats beforehand behaved.
“Once we say this isn’t Kavanaugh, what will we imply?” Graham mentioned. “It means Democratic senators are usually not going to have their home windows busted by teams. No Republican senator goes to unleash an assault in your character when the listening to is sort of over.”
It’s a solution to preempt the doable blame Republicans would possibly get for his or her questioning of Jackson, mentioned Mike Davis, the pinnacle of the Article III Venture, a right-leaning advocacy group targeted on the federal judiciary.
“It preempts any complaints Democrats might need about GOP criticisms of Decide Jackson’s document as a result of their assaults on Justice Kavanaugh had been private and unproven,” Davis, who has been informally advising Republican workers, instructed Vox. “It’s additionally a reminder to the general public of how terribly Democrats handled Justice Kavanaugh and his household. The GOP will concentrate on her skilled document, giving their criticisms extra credibility.” (There are key variations between the 2: for example, Kavanaugh confronted credible allegations of sexual assault, whereas Jackson doesn’t.)
Republicans additionally emphasised Democrats’ previous opposition to federal judicial nominees Miguel Estrada, who’s Latino, and Janice Rogers Brown, who’s Black, to recommend that Democrats have been harsher on nominees of shade if they’re GOP appointees.
Republicans’ questions and assaults this week are supposed to make the listening to “extra of a political wash as a substitute of a political win for Democrats,” Davis beforehand defined. By drawing consideration to the methods Democrats have allegedly mistreated Republican nominees, the GOP is attempting to recommend that its therapy of Jackson is effectively inside Senate norms.
“If there’s one factor you’ll be able to say in regards to the judicial nomination wars, they’ll at all times say they’re responding to the earlier unhealthy conduct of the opposite aspect,” mentioned Ilya Somin, a regulation professor at George Mason College and adjunct scholar on the Cato Institute.
Republicans relitigated previous nominations
Republicans spent a lot of the primary day strolling by means of a litany of grievances about previous nomination fights.
Many referenced Kavanaugh not directly, and plenty of additionally spoke about Estrada and Rogers.
“We will probably be truthful and thorough, as individuals would count on us to be, however we received’t get down within the gutter like Democrats did in the course of the Kavanaugh affirmation hearings,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) mentioned in his remarks.
Kavanaugh was confirmed after a dramatic nomination battle that noticed allegations floor towards him of decades-old sexual misconduct, prompting an extremely acrimonious battle amongst senators, giant protests on the Capitol, and a dramatic and emotional second spherical of hearings and testimony on the top of the nationwide Me Too motion.
The comparability means that Jackson and Kavanaugh’s nominations are going down beneath related contexts, although after all they don’t seem to be. Republicans didn’t acknowledge that, and even performed down the allegations.
“Nobody goes to inquire into your teenage relationship habits,” Cruz mentioned in remarks that appeared to gloss over the allegations Kavanaugh confronted.
Statements by Republicans about each Estrada and Rogers Brown additionally appeared aimed toward displaying that Democrats have additionally beforehand opposed nominees of shade. From 2001 to 2003, Democrats blocked Estrada’s nomination for the DC Circuit Courtroom of Appeals attributable to questions on his expertise and the idea that he’d add to the conservative tilt of the court docket. He was in the end pressured to withdraw his nomination. Rogers Brown, in the meantime, was confirmed for an appeals court docket seat in 2005, however solely after Democrats delayed her nomination for 2 years due to her conservative views on points together with labor rights.
“The purpose Republicans could be attempting to make is, if it was okay for Dems to oppose Janice Rogers Brown on judicial philosophy grounds, Republicans can oppose Ketanji Brown Jackson on judicial philosophy grounds,” Somin mentioned.
Along with citing their complaints with how previous nominations had been dealt with, Republicans additionally previewed different subjects they intend to ask Jackson about this week, together with her sentencing selections in baby porn circumstances, her work defending Guantanamo Bay detainees, and her place on packing the court docket.
Somin notes that Kavanaugh’s listening to was extensively considered as energizing Republican voters in 2018, simply forward of these midterm elections, and references to it now may not less than briefly gas the bottom.
Republicans have additionally tied Jackson’s positions on sentencing to a broader “tender on crime” assault they’ve fielded towards Democrats previous to the midterms. As crime charges have elevated in the course of the pandemic, the GOP has sought to pin the blame on President Joe Biden and different Democratic lawmakers.
This week’s hearings provide them one other avenue to make that very same case.