GOP on track to lose SCOTUS clash with Biden, as hearings begin
Updating the Court
Hi, Ari here… As hearings begin for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, I wanted to focus on her and the White House’s nomination strategy — and we will have more on The Beat tonight and this week!
As I write to you, hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson have just kicked off on Capitol Hill. Since her nomination, Senators have been analyzing her credentials, record and barrier breaking potential.
Now, they will get to ask questions of her directly. Some will use this as a chance to get information about her judicial philosophy. Others will use the time to push politics. (At the start of opening statements, Sen. Lindsey Graham already took that route.)
Judge Jackson is unusual in several ways, and the Biden White House is focused on stressing certain attributes. (I also wrote about some of this when she was first nominated.)
Does everyone deserve a lawyer?
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would increase the diversity on the Court. This is true on several terms.
Like many of her colleagues, Ketanji Brown Jackson went to Harvard undergrad and Harvard Law School. She also served as a public defender.
No current justice worked as a public defender.
And as Brown Jackson herself has stated, this is important to how she has approached her courtroom since she became a judge.
“Most of my clients didn’t really understand what had happened to them,” Jackson said in previous confirmation testimony. “Since I’ve become a trial judge, I take extra care to communicate with the defendants who come before me in the courtroom.”
Our backgrounds—personal and professional—inform how we all make decisions. So this is an essential part of Judge Jackson’s qualifications to serve on the highest court in the land.
In reporting on this nomination, I spoke to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, and it’s notable that she demurred on this topic:
“[She’s a former public defender] who was also endorsed by the FOP, Fraternal Order of Police,” Psaki told me. “You know, I think that there is a misconception of her—in some ways, that she is—because she was a public defender—which is an incredibly interesting and compelling part of her background—that she leans one partisan way over another.”
Many civil rights leaders tout Jackson’s experience representing criminal defendants. It may hone her appreciation for flaws in the justice system. And Republicans are already attacking her for it. (Sen. Cronyn did that in his opening statement Monday, saying she went “beyond the pale” as a defender.) But in terms of the confirmation strategy, the White House would rather talk about anything else.
Highlighting that Jackson is liked by police unions might help to sway some “centrists,” or build a narrative of Jackson as a solid, practical, pro-police jurist.
Counting to 50
Bottom line: the White House remains confident they have the votes secured to lock up Jackson’s nomination.
That’s definitely different than what Biden aides tell us about, say, holding 50 votes for spending bills, or reforming the filibuster.
This is still Washington, though. Nothing is ever done until it’s done. And I’m in town to cover the hearings, so I promise to keep you posted!