Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson faces more questions during third day of confirmation hearings

On Wednesday, each senator on the panel will have 20 minutes for additional questions.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, opened the hearing by saying that while many senators on both sides of the aisle have asked appropriate and respectful questions of the nominee, some have used the hearings as “an opportunity to showcase talking points for the November election.”

Durbin went on to say, in a criticism aimed at Republicans, that the nomination has “turned out to be a testing ground for conspiracy theories and culture war theories.”

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican member of the committee, jumped in say it was unfortunate that Durbin had chosen to editorialize and “contradict the points being made by this side of the aisle.”

Takeaways from the marathon Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearing
The confirmation hearings for Jackson — who would be the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice, if confirmed — began on Monday with lawmakers and the nominee delivering opening statements. The hearings will wrap up on Thursday when the American Bar Association and outside witnesses deliver testimony.

Jackson discusses separation of powers and limits on executive authority

Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia on Wednesday brought up a notable opinion in which Jackson wrote that “Presidents are not Kings.” Ossoff asked Jackson to explain what she meant and what she believes are the most important defenses to guard against the abuse of executive power.
Jackson has twice ruled against former President Donald Trump or his administration in cases concerning the disclosure of information from his White House.
The first was the 2019 opinion she penned as a district court judge in which she wrote that “Presidents are not Kings” while rejecting the Trump administration’s argument that White House counsel Don McGahn was absolutely immune from a congressional subpoena.

Jackson replied to Ossoff’s question by saying that the United States government is set up with a system of checks and balances to “prevent tyranny.” She called the separation of powers “crucial to liberty,” and said that principle informs her approach to the law.

“That means for me that judges can’t make law, judges shouldn’t be policymakers, that’s a part of our constitutional design, and it prevents our government from being too powerful and encroaching on individual liberty,” she said.

Jackson defends her record during first round of questions

On Tuesday, Jackson defended her record amid sharp questioning from Republican senators. She refuted claims from Republicans that she is weak on crime by stressing her concern for public safety and the rule of law, both as a judge and an American.

“Crime, and the effects on the community, and the need for law enforcement — those are not abstract concepts or political slogans to me,” she said.

She responded to concerns raised by Republicans over the potential for judicial activism by arguing that she approaches her work in an impartial way and emphasizing that it would be inappropriate to impose any kind of personal opinion or policy preference.

“When I get a case, I ensure that I am proceeding from a position of neutrality,” she said.

Jackson also discussed elements of her tenure in the legal profession that have attracted particular scrutiny — and criticism — from Republicans.

Describing her work as a public defender, Jackson said, “I was in the federal public defender’s office right after the Supreme Court decided that individuals who were detained at Guantanamo Bay by the President could seek review of their detention.”

She added, “Federal public defenders don’t get to pick their clients. They have to represent whoever comes in and it’s a service. That’s what you do as a federal public defender, you are standing up for the constitutional value of representation.”

Jackson also forcefully rebutted concerns voiced by some GOP senators over her record on sentencing in child pornography cases, referring to the issue as a “sickening and egregious crime.”

An in-depth CNN review of the material in question shows that Jackson has mostly followed the common judicial sentencing practices in these kinds of cases.

And a group of retired federal judges — including two Republican appointees — told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday night that Jackson’s record on child pornography sentencing is “entirely consistent” with the records of other judges across the country.

From Bork to Kavanaugh, GOP grievances feature during Jackson hearing

During the hearings, Jackson has also declined to weigh in on the sensitive political topic of expanding the Supreme Court beyond nine justices when pressed repeatedly by Republican senators, saying instead that it is a policy matter for Congress.

“I am particularly mindful of not speaking to policy issues because I am so committed to staying in my lane,” she said on Tuesday.

A number of Democrats have so far used the time allotted to them for questioning to give Jackson a chance to push back on Republican criticisms. Democrats have also consistently emphasized the historic nature of her nomination, while arguing that the depth and breadth of Jackson’s experience, including as a public defender, would add a valuable and unique perspective to the high court.

What’s next for the nomination

Senate Democrats are hoping to move swiftly to a confirmation vote by the full Senate once the hearings have concluded. They can confirm Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court without Republican support if every member of their caucus votes in favor, which appears on track to happen, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks a tie. It is not yet clear if Jackson will win any Republican votes.

When the Senate voted to confirm her last year to fill a vacancy on a powerful DC-based appellate court, three Republican senators voted with Democrats in favor: GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

But Graham told CNN it’s “fair to say” he sees red flags with her nomination in an interview after his first round of questioning the nominee, saying her answers on defending Guantanamo Bay detainees “just doesn’t make sense to me.” Graham will have the opportunity, along with the other members of the Judiciary committee, to ask questions again during Wednesday’s hearing.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.

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