For Supreme Court nominee Ketnaji Brown Jackson, the easiest part of a Senate confirmation hearing is over. Then comes the question – 19 hours in two days.
Jackson, 51, was sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, made an introductory statement and reintroduced himself to the nation.
“I hope you see how much I love our country, and the constitution and the rights that liberate us,” he told senators who would vote on his historic nomination.
On Tuesday, Jackson will lean on his previous three experiences questioned by his judicial committee – more than any other nominee in 30 years – because of his 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats investigating his judicial philosophy, his record as a public defender and his record. Doing. His legal opinion has been on the bench for almost nine years.
“This is a new game for the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, one of three Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson on the DC Circuit, the country’s second-highest court, just last year.
Jackson has spent the past few weeks practicing for the spotlight during mock sessions conducted with White House staff, sources familiar with the preparation told ABC News. He met separately with each member of the committee and 23 senators from both sides.
Each senator will receive a 30-minute single question on Tuesday, a total of more than 11 hours if everyone uses all the time allotted to him. Grilling is no different for federal judges or political nominees for the most part because of the lifetime on the line.
Searching for Jackson’s criminal record
While Democrats have emphasized the historical nature of Jackson’s nomination and his compelling personal story, Republicans have promised “thorough and civic” scrutiny of his record in hundreds of cases, which some say implies he is “soft on crime.”
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Howley has sharply criticized Jackson’s record, accusing him of having a “long record” of “hooking off” child pornography convicts.
In his statement Monday, Howley raised the issue of seven child porn offenders where Jackson was sentenced under federal guidelines while in district court. (According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, approximately 60% of convictions in such cases are less than the guidelines, and in most cases, Hawley cites, federal prosecutors have requested less penalties than the guidelines suggest.)
“I’m not interested in trying to play Gotcha,” Howley told Jackson. “I’m interested in his answers, because I saw in our time together that he was very thoughtful, very accomplished, and I doubt that there is a coherent perspective, an explanation, a way of thinking that I would like to hear.”
The White House and several independent fact-checkers have called the claims misleading and unfair. The National Review, a conservative publication, called the allegations “ineligible for demagogery” and “smears.”
Spotlight on Gitmo prisoner Jackson’s defense
Republicans have made it clear that they will also target Jackson’s defense against a suspected terrorist held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay – in which case he was assigned as a federal public defender.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said, “You did not use your time and talents to serve the elderly or other vulnerable groups in our country, but to provide free legal services to help terrorists get out of Gitmo and return to war.”
Jackson has previously cited his services as an example of his belief in constitutional values - the right of every individual to defense in the American justice system – and his personal connection to the sacrifices of members of the U.S. service after 9/11. Her brother is an experienced one.
Define a judicial philosophy
Several Republicans have said they plan to pressure Jackson for features of his judicial philosophy.
During his confirmation hearing last year, Jackson made it clear that he had “no jurisprudence, regardless of the parties, except to apply the same method of thorough analysis of each case.”
Conservative jurists tend to take a narrow view of constitutional and legal interpretations, sticking only to the text and its original meaning when writing. Liberal jurists tend to take a broader view, taking into account the intentions of legislators and the evolving context around aspects of law.
“The most important thing I’m looking for in any Supreme Court nomination is the nominee’s point of view on the law,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a top Republican member of the Judiciary Committee. “I’ll see if Judge Jackson is as committed to the Constitution as was originally understood.”
Race, positive action and generous priorities
While Republicans have sought to reduce questions about race, Jackson’s relationship with Harvard University and a major upcoming high court lawsuit could open the door to such an investigation involving the use of races in school admissions. If confirmed, he will be on the bench for hearing the case.
Several GOP senators also hinted Monday that they want to pressure Jackson to answer for progressive legal advocacy groups that support both his nomination and the expansion of the Supreme Court bench, or “court-packing” that current judges oppose.
“We must defend the court,” said Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, who indicated he would seek Jackson’s denial of the group’s activities.
The Trump administration’s verdict
Former President Donald Trump’s name was mentioned only once during Monday’s hearing, but several of the decisions Jackson issued against the Trump administration are likely to be verified on Tuesday.
Texas Republican Sen. John Kornin said, “I’m interested in understanding why, in some cases, you saw that you could not make a decision on a particular issue while in other cases you instructed a Republican administration to implement its policies.”
In one case, cited by Conservatives, Jackson blocked the Trump administration’s plan for speedy deportation because the policy change was likely to violate administrative procedures and was “arbitrary and ridiculous.” The DC Circuit later overturned that decision.
Jackson’s ruling will also draw attention to the fact that Trump’s former White House counsel, Don McGann, had to comply with congressional subpoenas over the administration’s objections.
“Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote. “Rather, in this country of independence, it is undeniable that current and former White House staffers work for the people of the United States and they vow to protect and defend the United States Constitution.”
The next two days of questioning could prove crucial to the White House’s goal of securing at least some Republican support for Jackson’s confirmation. Three GOP senators voted in favor of his nomination on the DC circuit. But Democrats also have their own vote to confirm Jackson, which party leaders say they plan to complete before Easter.